NOT THAT IT MATTERS
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
THE DAY'S PLAY
THE HOLIDAY ROUND
ONCE A WEEK
ONCE ON A TIME
IF I MAY
NOT THAT FT
A. A. MILNE
METHUEN & CO. LTD.
36 ESSEX STREET W.G.
First Published . . . November zoth 7070
Second Edition. . . . February 1920
Third Edition . . . 79*7
K. J. M.
IN MEMORY OF THE NINETIES
OF these little essays, one appeared originally
in The Star> eight in The Outlook^ and the
remainder in The Sphere, They were written
during two periods ; some within the last year,
others as long ago as 1910-1912 ; but they
are not printed here in chronological order,
and the reader must guess for himself (if that
sort of thing amuses him) which are the earlier
articles and which the later. Not, of course,
that it matters.
A. A. M.
THE PLEASURE OF WRITING . . . . i
ACACIA ROAD ...... 7
MY LIBRARY . . . . . .12
THE CHASE . . . . . .18
SUPERSTITION . . . . . -23
THE CHARM OF GOLF . . . .28
GOLDFISH . . . . . 33
SATURDAY TO MONDAY . . . -38
THE POND ... . . . -43
A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY STORY . . .48
OUR LEARNED FRIENDS . . . -53
A WORD FOR AUTUMN . . . .60
A CHRISTMAS NUMBER . . . -65
No FLOWERS BY REQUEST . . . .70
THE UNFAIRNESS OF THINGS . . .75
DAFFODILS ...... 80
A HOUSEHOLD BOOK . . . , .85
LUNCH . . * . i . .90
THE FRIEND OF MAN . . . '95
THE DIARY HABIT . . . . . 101
Not That It Matters
MIDSUMMER DAY ..... 106
Ax THE BOOKSTALL . . . . .112
"WHO'S WHO" 118
A DAY AT LORD'S . . . . .124
BY THE SEA ...... 129
GOLDEN FRUIT . . . . .134
SIGNS OF CHARACTER .... 139
INTELLECTUAL SNOBBERY .... 144
A QUESTION OF FORM . . . .150
A SLICE OF FICTION . . . . .155
THE LABEL ...... 160
THE PROFESSION . . . . .166
SMOKING AS A FINE ART . . . .171
THE PATH TO GLORY . . . .176
A PROBLEM IN ETHICS . . . .181
THE HAPPIEST HALF-HOURS OF LIFE . . 186
NATURAL SCIENCE . . . . .191
ON GOING DRY . . . . 196
A MISJUDGED GAME ..... 202
A DOUBTFUL CHARACTER .... 208
THOUGHTS ON THERMOMETERS . . .213
FOR A WET AFTERNOON . . . .218
DECLINED W:TH THANKS .... 223
ON GOING INTO A HOUSE .... 230
THE IDEAL AUTHOR ..... 235
NOT THAT IT MATTERS
The Pleasure of Writing o o o
^ OMETJMES when the printer is waiting for
wJan article which really should have been sent
to him the day before, I sit at my desk and
wonder if there is any possible subject in the
whole world upon which I can possibly find any-
thing to say. On one such occasion I left it to
Fate, which decided, by means of a dictionary
opened at random, that 1 should deliver myself
of a few thoughts about goldfish. (You will find
this article later on in the book.) But to-day I
do not need to bother about a subject. To-day
I am without a care. Nothing less has happened
than that I have a new nib in my pen.
In the ordinary way, when Shakespeare writes
a tragedy, or Mr. Blank gives you one of his
charming little essays, a certain amount of thought
goes on before pen is put to paper. One cannot
write " Scene I. An Open Place. Thunder and
Not That It Matters
Lightning. Enter Three Witches/' or "As I look
up from my window, the nodding daffodils beckon
to me to take the morning," one cannot give of
one's best in this way on the spur of the moment.
At least, others cannot. But when I have a new
nib in my pen, then I can go straight from my
breakfast to the blotting-paper, and a new sheet
of foolscap fills itself magically with a stream of
blue-black words. When poets and idiots talk of
the pleasure of writing, they mean the pleasure of
giving a piece of their minds to the public ; with
an old nib a tedious business. They do not
mean (as I do) the pleasure of the artist in seeing
beautifully shaped " k's " and sinuous " s's " grow
beneath his steel. Anybody else writing this
article might wonder " Will my readers like it ? "
I only tell myself " How the compositors will
love it ! "
But perhaps they will not love it. Maybe I
am a little above their heads. I remember on
one First of January receiving an anonymous
postcard wishing me a happy New Year, and
suggesting that I should give the compositors a
happy New Year also by writing nlore generously.
In those days I got a thousand words upon one
sheet 8 in. by 5 in. I adopted the suggestion, but
it was a wrench ; as it would be for a painter of
The Pleasure of Writing
miniatures forced to spend the rest of his life
painting the Town Council of Boffington in the
manner of Herkomer. My canvases are bigger
now, but they are still impressionistic. " Pretty,
but what is it ? " remains the obvious comment ;
one steps back a pace and saws the air with the
hand ; " You see it better from here, my love,"
one says to one's wife. But if there be one
compositor not carried away by the mad rush of
life, who in a leisurely hour (the luncheon one,
for instance) looks at the beautiful words with
the eye of an artist, not of a wage-earner, he, I
think, will be satisfied ; he will be as glad as I am
of my new nib. Poes it matter, then, what you
who see only the printed word think of it ?
A woman, who had studied what she called
the science of calligraphy, once offered to tell my
character from my handwriting. I prepared a
special sample for her ; it was full of sentences
like " To be good is to be happy," " Faith is the
lode-star of life," " We should always be kind to
animals," and so on. I wanted her to do her
best. She gave the morning to it, and told me
at lunch that I was " synthetic." Probably you
think that the compositor has failed me here and
printed "synthetic" when I wrote "sympa-
thetic." In just this way I misunderstood my
Not That It Matters
calligraphist at first, and I looked as sympathetic
as I could. However, she repeated " synthetic/*
so that there could be no mistake. I begged
her to tell me more, for I had thought that
every letter would reveal a secret, but all she
would add was "and not analytic." I went
about for the rest of the day saying proudly to
myself " I am synthetic ! I am synthetic ! I am
synthetic ! " and then I would add regretfully,
" Alas, I am not analytic ! " I had no idea what
And how do you think she had deduced my
syntheticness ? Simply from the fact that, to
save time, I join some of my words together.
That isn't being synthetic, it is being in a hurry.
What she should have said was, " You are a busy
man ; your life is one constant whirl ; and prob-
ably you are of excellent moral character and
kind to animals." Then one would feel that one
did not write in vain.
My pen is getting tired ; it has lost its first fair
youth. However, I can still go on. I was at
school with a boy whose uncle made nibs. If
you detect traces of erudition in this article, of
which any decent man might be expected to be
innocent, I owe it to that boy. He once told me
how many nibs his uncle made in a year ; luckily
The Pleasure of Writing
I have forgotten. Thousands, probably. Every
term that boy came back with a hundred of
them ; one expected him to be very busy. After
all, if you haven't the brains or the inclination to
work, it is something to have the nibs. These
nibs, however, were put to better uses. There is
a game you can play with them ; you flick your
nib against the other boy's nib, and if a lucky
shot puts the head of yours under his, then a
sharp tap capsizes him, and you have a hundred
and one in your collection. There is a good deal
of strategy in the game (whose finer points I have
now forgotten), and I have no doubt that they
play it at the Admiralty in the off season.
Another game was to put a clean nib in your pen,
place it lightly against the cheek of a boy whose
head was turned away from you, and then call
him suddenly. As Kipling says, we are the only
really humorous race. This boy's uncle died a
year or two later and left about 80,000, but
none of it to his nephew. Of course, he had had
the nibs every term. One mustn't forget that.
The nib I write this with is called the
" Canadian Quill " ; made, I suppose, from some
steel goose which flourishes across the seas, and
which Canadian housewives have to explain to
their husbands every Michaelmas. Well, it has
Not That It Matters
seen me to the end of what I wanted to say if
indeed I wanted to say anything. For it was
enough for me this morning just to write ; with
spring coming in through the open windows and
my good Canadian quill in my hand, I could have
copied out a directory. That is the real pleasure
F course there are disadvantages of suburban
V_X life. In the fourth act of the play there may,
be a moment when the fate of the erring wife
hangs in the balance, and utterly regardless of
this the last train starts from Victoria at 11.15.
It must be annoying to have to leave her at
such a crisis ; it must be annoying too to have
to preface the curtailed pleasures of the play
with a meat tea and a hasty dressing in the
afternoon. But, after all, one cannot judge life
from its facilities for playgoing. It would be
absurd to condemn the suburbs because of the
There is a road eight miles from London up
which I have walked, sometimes on my way
to golf. I think it is called Acacia Road ; some
pretty name like that. It may rain in Acacia
Road, but never when I am there. The sun
shines on Laburnum Lodge with its pink may
tree, on the Cedars with its two clean limes, it
Not That It Matters
casts its shadow on the ivy of Holly House,
and upon the whole road there rests a pleasant
afternoon peace. I cannot walk along Acacia
Road without feeling that life could be very
happy in it when the sun is shining. It must
be jolly, for instance, to live in Laburnum Lodge
with its pink may tree. Sometimes I fancy that
a suburban home is the true home after all.
When I pass Laburnum Lodge I think of
Him saying good-bye to Her at the gate, as he
takes the air each morning on his way to the
station. What if the train is crowded ? He
has his newspaper. That will see him safely to
the City. And then how interesting will be
everything which happens to him there, since
he has Her to tell it to when he comes home.
The most ordinary street accident becomes ex-
citing if a story has to be made of it. Happy
the man who can say of each little incident, " I
must remember to tell Her when I get home."
And it is only in the suburbs that one "gets
home." One does not " get home " to Grosvenor
Square; one is simply "in" or "out."
But the master of Laburnum Lodge may
have something better to tell his wife than the
incident of the runaway horse ; he may have
heard a new funny story at lunch. The joke
may have been all over the City, but it is
unlikely that his wife in the suburbs will have
heard it. Put it on the credit side of marriage
that you can treasure up your jokes for some
one else. And perhaps She has something for
him too ; some backward plant, it may be, has
burst suddenly into flower ; at least he will walk
more eagerly up Acacia Road for wondering.
So it will be a happy meeting under the pink
may tree of Laburnum Lodge when these two
are restored safely to each other after the ex-
citements of the day. Possibly they will even
do a little gardening together in the still glowing
If life has anything more to offer than this it
will be found at Holly House, where there are
babies. Babies give an added excitement to the
master's homecoming, for almost anything may
have happened to them while he has been away.
Dorothy perhaps has cut a new tooth and Anne
may have said something really clever about
the baker's man. In the morning, too, Anne
will walk with him to the end of the road ; it is
perfectly safe, for in Acacia Road nothing
untoward could occur. Even the dogs are
quiet and friendly. I like to think of the
master of Holly House saying good-bye to Anne
Not That It Matters
at the end of the road and knowing that she
will be alive when he comes back in the evening.
That ought to make the day's work go quickly.
But it is the Cedars which gives us the
secret of the happiness of the suburbs. The
Cedars you observe is a grander house altogether ;
there is a tennis lawn at the back. And there
are grown-up sons and daughters at the Cedars.
In such houses in Acacia Road the delightful
business of love-making is in full swing. Mar-
riages are not " arranged " in the suburbs ; they
grow naturally out of the pleasant intercourse
between the Cedars, the Elms, and Rose Bank.
I see Tom walking over to the Elms, racket in
hand, to play tennis with Miss Muriel. He is
hoping for an in>ptation to remain to supper,
and indeed I think he will get it. Anyhow he
is going to ask Miss Muriel to come across to
lunch to-morrow ; his mother has so much to
talk to her about. But it will be Tom who will
do most of the talking.
I am sure that the marriages made in
Acacia R6ad are happy. That is why I have
no fears for Holly House and Laburnum Lodge.
Of course they didn't make love in this Acacia
Road ; they are come from the Acacia Road
of some other suburb, wisely deciding that
they will be better away from their people.
But they met each other in the same way as
Tom and Muriel are meeting ; He has seen Her
in Her own home, in His home, at the tennis
club, surrounded by the young bounders (con-
found them!) of Turret Court and the Wilder-
ness ; She has heard of him falling off his
bicycle or quarrelling with his father. Bless
you, they know all about each other ; they are
going to be happy enough together.
And now I think of it, why of course there
is a local theatre where they can do their play-
going, if they are as keen on it as that. For
ten shillings they can spread from the stage
box an air of luxury and refinement over the
house; and they can nod in an easy manner
across the stalls to the Cedars in the opposite
box in the deep recesses of which Tom and
Muriel, you may be sure, are holding hands.
My Library o o o o o
WHEN I moved into a new house a few
weeks ago, my books, as was natural,
moved with me. Strong, perspiring men shovelled
them into packing-cases, and staggered with
them to the van, cursing Caxton as they went.
On arrival at this end, they staggered with them
into the room selected for my library, heaved off
the lids of the cases, and awaited orders. The
immediate need was for an emptier room. To-
gether we hurried the books into the new white
shelves which awaited them, the order in which
they stood being of no matter so long as they
were off the floor. Armful after armful was
hastily stacked, the only pause being when (in
the curious way in which these things happen)
my own name suddenly caught the eye of the
foreman. " Did you write this one, sir ? " he
asked. I admitted it. "H'm," he said non-
committally. He glanced along the names
of every armful after that, and appeared a
little surprised at the number of books which
I hadn't written. An easy-going profession,
So we got the books up at last, and there they
are still. I told myself that when a wet after-
noon came along I would arrange them properly.
When the wet afternoon came, I told myself that
I would arrange them one of these fine mornings.
As they are now, I have to look along every shelf
in the search for the book which I want. To come
to Keats is no guarantee that we are on the road
to Shelley. Shelley, if he did not drop out on the
way, is probably next to How to be a Golfer though
Having written as far as this, I had to get up
and see where Shelley really was. It is worse
than I thought. He is between Geometrical
Optics and Studies in New Zealand Scenery. Ella
Wheeler Wilcox, whom I find myself to be enter-
taining unawares, sits beside Anarchy or Order,
which was apparently " sent in the hope that you
will become a member of the Duty and Discipline
Movement " a vain hope, it would seem, for
I have not yet paid my subscription. What 1
Found Out, by an English Governess, shares a
corner with The Recreations of a Country Parson ;
they are followed by Villette and Baedeker's
Not That It Matters
Switzerland. Something will have to be done
But I am wondering what is to be done. If I
gave you the impression that my books were
precisely arranged in their old shelves, I misled
you. They were arranged in the order known as
"all anyhow." Possibly they were a little less
" anyhow " than they are now, in that the
volumes of any particular work were at least
together, but that is all that can be claimed for
them. For years I put off the business of
tidying them up, just as I am putting it off now.
It is not laziness ; it is simply that I don't know
how to begin.
Let us suppose that we decide to have all the
poetry together. It sounds reasonable. But then
Byron is eleven inches high (my tallest poet), and
Beattie (my shortest) is just over four inches. How
foolish they will look standing side by side. Per-
haps you don't know Beattie, but I assure you that
he was a poet. He wrote those majestic lines:
" The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made
On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock ;
The sickle, scythe or plough he never swayed
An honest heart was almost all his stock."
Of course, one would hardly expect a shepherd to
sway a plough in the ordinary way, but Beattie
was quite right to remind us that Edwin didn't
either. Edwin was the name of the shepherd-
swain. " And yet poor Edwin was no vulgar
boy/' we are told a little further on in a line that
should live. Well, having satisfied you that
Beattie was really a poet, I can now return to my
argument that an eleven-inch Byron cannot
stand next to a four-inch Beattie, and be followed
by an eight-inch Cowper, without making the
shelf look silly. Yet how can I discard Beattie
Beattie who wrote :
"And now the downy cheek and deepened voice
Gave dignity to Edwin's blooming prime."
You see the difficulty. If you arrange your
books according to their contents you are sure to
get an untidy shelf. If you arrange your books
according to their size and colour you get an
effective wall, but the poetically inclined visitor
may lose sight of Beattie altogether. Before,
then, we decide what to do about it, we must ask
ourselves that very awkward question, " Why do
we have books on our shelves at all ? " It is a
most embarrassing question to answer.
Of course, you think that the proper answer
(in your own case) is an indignant protest that
you bought them in order to read them, and that
Not That It Matters
you put them on your shelves in order that you
could refer to them when necessary. A little
reflection will show you what a stupid answer
that is. If you only want to read them, why are
some of them bound in morocco and half-calf and
other expensive coverings ? Why did you buy a
first edition when a hundredth edition was so
much cheaper ? Why have you got half a dozen
copies of The Rubdiydt ? What is the particular
value of this other book that you treasure it so
carefully? Why, the fact that its pages are
uncut. If you cut the pages and read it, the
value would go.
So, then, your library is not just for reference.
You know as well as I do that it furnishes your
room ; that it furnishes it more effectively than
does paint or mahogany or china. Of course, it
is nice to have the books there, so that one can
refer to them when one wishes. One may be
writing an article on sea-bathing, for instance,
and have come to the sentence which begins :
"In the well-remembered words of Coleridge,
perhaps almost too familiar to be quoted " and
then one may have to look them up. On these
occasions a library is not only ornamental but
useful. But do not let us be ashamed that we
find it ornamental.
Indeed, the more I survey it, the more I feel
that my library is sufficiently ornamental as it
stands. Any reassembling of the books might
spoil the colour-scheme. Baedeker 's Switzerland
and VUlette are both in red, a colour which is
neatly caught up again, after an interlude in blue,
by a volume of Browning and Jevons' Elementary
Logic. We had a woman here only yesterday
who said, " How pretty your books look," and I
am inclined to think that that is good enough.
There is a careless rapture about them which
I should lose if 1 started to arrange them
But perhaps I might risk this to the extent of
getting all their heads the same way up. Yes,
on one of these fine days (or wet nights) I shall
take my library seriously in hand. There are
still one or two books which are the wrong way
round. I shall put them the right way round.
The Chase <:> o o o
THE fact, as revealed in a recent lawsuit,
hat there is a gentleman in this country
who spends 10,000 a year upon his butterfly
collection would have disturbed me more in
the early nineties than it does to-day. I can
bear it calmly now, but twenty-five years ago
the knowledge would have spoilt my pride in
my own collection, upon which I was already
spending the best part of threepence a week
pocket-money. Perhaps, though, I should have
consoled myself with the ' thought that I was
the truer enthusiast of the two ; for when my
rival hears of a rare butterfly in Brazil, he sends
a man out to Brazil to capture it, whereas I,
when I heard that there was a Clouded Yellow
in the garden, took good care that nobody but
myself encompassed its death. Our aims also
were different. I purposely left Brazil out of it.
Whether butterfly-hunting is good or bad
for the character I cannot undertake to decide.
No doubt it can be justified as clearly as fox-
hunting. If the fox eats chickens, the butter-
fly's child eats vegetables ; if fox-hunting
improves the breed of horses, butterfly-hunting
improves the health of boys. But at least, we
never told ourselves that butterflies liked being
pursued, as (I understand) foxes like being
hunted. We were moderately honest about it.
And we comforted ourselves in the end with the
assurance of many eminent naturalists that
"insects don't feel pain."
I have often wondered how naturalists dare
to speak with such authority. Do they never
have dreams at night of an after-life in some
other world, wherein they are pursued by giant
insects eager to increase their "naturalist
collection " insects who assure each other
carelessly that " naturalists don't feel pain " ?
Perhaps they do so dream. But we, at any
rate, slept well, for we had never dogmatized
about a butterfly's feelings. We only quoted
the wise men.
But if there might be doubt about the
sensitiveness of a butterfly, there could be no
doubt about his distinguishing marks. It was
amazing to us how many grown-up and (pre-
sumably) educated men and women did not
Not That It Matters
know that a butterfly had knobs on the end of
his antennae, and that the moth had none.
Where had they been all these years to be so
ignorant ? Well-meaning but misguided aunts,
with mysterious promises of a new butterfly
for our collection, would produce some common
Yellow Underwing from an envelope, innocent
(for which they may be forgiven) that only a
personal capture had any value to us, but un-
forgivably ignorant that a Yellow Underwing
was a moth. We did not collect moths ; there
were too many of them. And moths are
nocturnal creatures. A hunter whose bed-
time depends upon the whim of another is
handicapped for the night-chase.
But butterflies come out when the sun comes
out, which is just when little boys should be
out; and there are not too many butterflies in
England. I knew them all by name once, and
could have recognized any that I saw yes,
even Hampstead's Albion Eye (or was it
Albion's Hampstead Eye?), of which only one
specimen had ever been caught in this country ;
presumably by Hampstead or Albion. . In my
day-dreams the second specimen was caught
by me. Yet he was an insignificant-looking
fellow, and perhaps I should have been better
pleased with a Camberwell Beauty, a Purple
Emperor, or a Swallowtail. Unhappily the
Purple Emperor (so the book told us) haunted
the tops of trees, which was to take an unfair
advantage of a boy small for his age, and the
Swallowtail haunted Norfolk, which was equally
inconsiderate of a family which kept holiday in
the south. The Camberwell Beauty sounded
more hopeful, but I suppose the trams dis-
heartened him. I doubt if he ever haunted
Camberwell in my time.
With threepence a week one has to be
careful. It was necessary to buy killing-boxes
and setting-boards, but butterfly-nets could be
made at home. A stick, a piece of copper
wire, and some muslin were all that were
necessary. One liked the muslin to be green,
for there was a feeling that this deceived the
butterfly in some way ; he thought that Birnam
Wood was merely coming to Dunsinane when
he saw it approaching, and that the queer-
looking thing behind was some local efflores-
cence. So he resumed his dalliance with the
herbaceous border, and was never more sur-
prised in his life than when it turned out to be
a boy and a butterfly-net. Green muslin, then,
but a plain piece of cane for the stick. None
Not That It Matters
of your collapsible fishing-rods ''suitable for
a Purple Emperor." Leave those to the
It comes back to me now that I am doing
this afternoon what I did more than twenty-five
years ago ; I am writing an article upon the
way to make a butterfly-net. For my first
contribution to the press was upon this subject.
I sent it to the editor of some boys' paper, and
his failure to print it puzzled me a good deal,
since every word in it (I was sure) was correctly
spelt. Of course, I see now that you want
more in an article than that. But besides
being puzzled I was extremely disappointed, for
I wanted badly the money that it should have
brought in. I wanted it in order to buy a
butterfly-net; the stick and the copper wire
and the green muslin being (in my hands, at
any rate) more suited to an article.
Superstition o *> *> *> o
I HAVE just read a serious column on the
prospects for next year. This article con-
sisted of contributions from ' experts in the
various branches of industry (including one from
a meteorological expert who, I need hardly tell
you, forecasted a wet summer) and ended with
a general summing up of the year by Old
Moore or one of the minor prophets. Old
Moore, I am sorry to say, left me cold.
I should like to believe in astrology, but I
cannot. I should like to believe that the
heavenly bodies sort themselves into certain
positions in order that Zadkiel may be kept in
touch with the future ; the idea of a star whiz-
zing a million miles out of its path by way of
indicating a "sensational divorce case in high
life" is extraordinarily massive. But, candidly,
1 do not believe the stars bother. What the
stars are for, what they are like when you get
there, I do not know ; but a starry night would
Not That It Matters
not be so beautiful if it were simply meant as
a warning to some unpleasant financier that
Kaffirs were going up.' The ordinary man looks
at the heavens and thinks what an insignificant
atom he is beneath them ; the believer in as-
trology looks up and realizes afresh his over-
whelming importance. Perhaps, after all, I am
glad I do not believe.
Life must be a very tricky thing for the
superstitious. At dinner a night or two ago I
happened to say that I had never been in danger
of drowning. I am not sure now that it was
true, but I still think that it was harmless.
However, before I had time to elaborate my
theme (whatever it was) I was peremptorily
ordered to touch wood. I protested that both
my feet were on the polished oak and both my
elbows on the polished mahogany (one always
knew that some good instinct inspired the
pleasant habit of elbows on the table) and that
anyhow I did not see the need. However,
because one must not argue at dinner I tapped
the table two or three times . . . and now I
suppose I am immune. At the same time I
should like to know exactly whom I have
For this must be the idea of the wood-touch-
ing superstition, that a malignant spirit dogs
one's conversational footsteps, listening eagerly
for the complacent word. " I have never had
the mumps/' you say airily. " Ha, ha ! " says
the spirit, " haven't you ? Just you wait till
next Tuesday, my boy." 'Unconsciously we are
crediting Fate with our own human weaknesses.
If a man standing on the edge of a pond said
aloud, " I have never fallen into a pond in my
life," and we happened to be just behind him,
the temptation to push him in would be irre-
sistible. Irresistible, that is by us ; but it is
charitable to assume that Providence can control
itself by now.
Of course, nobody really thinks that our good
or evil spirits have any particular feeling about
wood, that they like it stroked ; nobody, I sup-
pose, not even the most superstitious, really
thinks that Fate is especially touchy in the
matter of salt and ladders. Equally, of course,
many people who throw spilt salt over their left
shoulders are not superstitious in the least, and
are only concerned to display that readiness in
the face of any social emergency which is said
to be the mark of good manners. But there
are certainly many who feel that it is the part
of a wise man to propitiate the unknown, to
Not That It Matters
bend before the forces which work for harm ;
and they pay tribute to Fate by means of these
little customs in the hope that they will secure
in return an immunity from evil. The tribute
is nominal, but it is an acknowledgment all the
A proper sense of proportion leaves no room
for superstition. A man says, " I have never
been in a shipwreck," and becoming nervous
touches wood. Why is he nervous ? He has
this paragraph before his eyes : " Among the
deceased was Mr. . By a remarkable coin-
cidence this gentleman had been saying only a
few days before that he had never been in a
shipwreck. Little did he think that his next
voyage would falsify his words so tragically."
It occurs to him that he has read paragraphs
like that again and again. Perhaps he has.
Certainly he has never read a paragraph like
this : " Among the deceased was Mr. . By
a remarkable coincidence this gentleman had
never made the remark that he had not yet
been in a shipwreck." Yet that paragraph could
have been written truthfully thousands of times.
A sense of proportion would tell you that, if
only one side of a case is ever recorded, that
side acquires an undue importance.
The truth is that Fate does not go out of its
way to be dramatic. If you or I had the power
of life and death in our hands, we should no
doubt arrange some remarkably bright and tell-
ing effects. A man who spilt the salt callously
would be drowned next week in the Dead Sea,
and a couple who married in May would expire
simultaneously in the May following. But Fate
cannot worry to think out all the clever things
that we should think out. It goes about its
business solidly and unromantically, and by the
ordinary laws of chance it achieves every now
and then something startling and romantic.
Superstition thrives on the fact that only the
accidental dramas are reported.
But there are charms to secure happiness as
well as charms to avert evil. In these I am a
firm believer. I do not mean that I believe
that a horseshoe hung up in the house will
bring me good luck ; I mean that if anybody
does believe this, then the hanging up of his
horseshoe will probably bring him good luck.
For if you believe that you are going to be
lucky, you go about your business with a smile,
you take disaster with a smile, you start afresh
with a smile. And to do that is to be in the
way of happiness.
The Charm of Golf o e> o *c>
WHEN he reads of the notable doings of
famous golfers, the eighteen- handicap
man has no envy in his heart. For by this time
he has discovered the great secret of golf.
Before he began to play he wondered wherein
lay the fascination of it ; now he knows. Golf
is so popular simply because it is the best game
in the world at which to be bad.
Consider what it is to be bad at cricket.
You have bought a new bat, perfect in balance ;
- a new pair of pads, white as driven snow ;
gloves of the very latest design. Do they let
you use them? No. After one ball, in the
negotiation of which neither your bat, nor your
pads, nor your gloves came into play, they send
you back into the pavilion to spend the rest of the
afternoon listening to fatuous stories of some old
gentleman who knew Fuller Pilch. And when
your side takes the field, where are you ? Prob-
ably at long leg both ends, exposed to the
The Charm of Golf
public gaze as the worst fieldsman in London.
How devastating are your emotions. Remorse,
anger, mortification, fill your heart ; above all,
envy envy of the lucky immortals who disport
themselves on the green level of Lord's.
Consider what it is to be bad at lawn
tennis. True, you are allowed to hold on to your
new racket all through the game, but how often
are you allowed to employ it usefully ? How
often does your partner cry " Mine ! " and bundle
you out of the way ? Is there pleasure in play-
ing football badly ? You may spend the full
eighty minutes in your new boots, but your
relations with the ball will be distant. They
do not give you a ball to yourself at football.
But how different a game is golf. At golf
it is the bad player who gets the most strokes.
However good his opponent, the bad player has
the right to play out each hole to the end ; he
will get more than his share of the game. He
need have no fears that his new driver will not
be employed. He will have as many swings
with it as the scratch man; more, if he misses
the ball altogether upon one or two tees. If
he buys a new niblick he is certain to get fun
out of it on the very first day.
And, above all, there is this to be said for
Not That It Matters
golfing mediocrity the bad player can make
the strokes of the good player. The poor
cricketer has perhaps never made fifty in his
life; as soon as he stands at the wickets he
knows that he is not going to make fifty to-day.
But the eighteen-handicap man has some time or
other played every hole on the course to perfec-
tion. He has driven a ball 250 yards ; he has
made superb approaches ; he has run down the
long putt. Any of these things may suddenly
happen to him again. And therefore it is not
his fate to have to sit in the club smoking-
room after his second round and listen to the
wonderful deeds of others. He can join in too.
He can say with perfect truth, " I once carried
the ditch at the fourth with my second," or " I
remember when I drove into the bunker guard-
ing the eighth green," or even " I did a three at
the eleventh this afternoon " bogey being five.
But if the bad cricketer says, " I remember when
I took a century in forty minutes off Lockwood
and Richardson," he is nothing but a liar.
For these and other reasons golf is the best
game in the world for the bad player. And
sometimes I am tempted to go further and say
that it is a better game for the bad player than
for the good player. The joy of driving a ball
The Charm of Golf
straight after a week of slicing, the joy of
putting a mashie shot dead, the joy of even a
moderate stroke with a brassie ; best of all, the
joy of the perfect cleek shot these things the
good player will never know. Every stroke we
bad players make we make in hope. It is never
so bad but it might have been worse ; it is never
so bad but we are confident of doing better
next time. And if the next stroke is good, what
happiness fills our soul. How eagerly we tell
ourselves that in a little while all our strokes
will be as good.
What does Vardon know of this ? If he
does a five hole in four he blames himself that
he did not do it in three ; if he does it in five
he is miserable. He will never experience that
happy surprise with which we hail our best
strokes. Only his bad strokes surprise him,
and then we may suppose that he is not happy.
His length and accuracy are mechanical ; they
are not the result, as so often in our case, of
some suddenly applied maxim or some sud-
denly discovered innovation. The only thing
which can vary in his game is his putting, and
putting is not golf but croquet.
But of course we, too, are going to be as
good as Vardon one day. We are only post-
Not That It Matters
poning the day because meanwhile it is so
pleasant to be bad. And it is part of the
charm of being bad at golf that in a moment,
in a single night, we may become good. If the
bad cricketer said to a good cricketer, "What
am I doing wrong ? " the only possible answer
would be, " Nothing particular, except that you
can't play cricket." But if you or I were to
say -to our scratch friend, " What am I doing
wrong ? " he would reply at once, " Moving
the head " or " Dropping the right knee " or
"Not getting the wrists in soon enough," and
by to-morrow we should be different players.
Upon such a little depends, or seems to the
eighteen-handicap to depend, excellence in golf.
And so, perfectly happy in our present bad-
ness and perfectly confident of our future good-
ness, we long-handicap men remain. Perhaps
it would be pleasanter to be a little more
certain of getting the ball safely off the first
tee ; perhaps at the fourteenth hole, where there
is a right of way and the public encroach, we
should like to feel that we have done with
topping ; perhaps
Well, perhaps we might get our handicap
down to fifteen this summer. But no lower ;
certainly no lower.
Goldfish *> o *> o o o
LET us talk about well, anything you will.
Goldfish, for instance.
Goldfish are a symbol of old-world tranquillity
or mid-Victorian futility according to their position
in the home. Outside the home, in that wild
state from which civilization has dragged them,
they may have stood for dare-devil courage or
constancy or devotion ; I cannot tell. I may
only speak of them now as I find them, which is
in the garden or in the drawing-room. In their
lily-leaved pool, sunk deep in the old flagged
terrace, upon whose borders the blackbird whistles
his early - morning song, they remind me of
sundials and lavender and old delightful things.
But in their cheap glass bowl upon the three-
legged table, above which the cloth-covered
canary maintains a stolid silence, they remind
me of antimacassars and horsehair sofas and all
that is depressing. It is hard that the goldfish
himself should have so little choice in the matter.
Not That It Matters
Goldfish look pretty in the terrace pond, yet I
doubt if it was the need for prettiness which
brought them there. Rather the need for some
thing to throw things to. . No one of the initiate
can sit in front of Nature's most wonderful effect,
the sea, without wishing to throw stones into it,
the physical pleasure of the effort and the aesthetic
pleasure of the splash combining to produce per-
fect contentment. So by the margin of the pool
the same desires stir within one, and because
ants' eggs do not splash, and look untidy on the
surface of the water, there must be a gleam ot
gold and silver to put the crown upon one's
Perhaps when you have been feeding the gold-
fish you have not thought of it like that. But at
least you must have wondered why, of all diets,
they should prefer ants' eggs. Ants' eggs are, I
should say, the very last thing which one would
take to without argument. It must be an
acquired taste, and, this being so, one naturally
asks oneself how goldfish came to acquire it.
I suppose (but I am lamentably ignorant on
these as on all other matters) that there was a
time when goldfish lived a wild free life of their
own. They roamed the sea or the river, or
whatever it was, fighting for existence, and
Nature showed them, as she always does, the
food which suited them. Now I have often
come across ants' nests in my travels, but never
when swimming. In seas and rivers, pools and
lakes, I have wandered, but Nature has never
put ants' eggs in my way. No doubt it would
be only right the goldfish has a keener eye
than I have for these things, but if they had
been there, should I have missed them so com-
pletely ? I think not, for if they had been there,
they must have been there in great quantities.
I can imagine a goldfish slowly acquiring the
taste for them through the centuries, but only if
other food were denied to him, only if, wherever
he went, ants' eggs, ants' eggs, ants' eggs drifted
down the stream to him.
Yet, since it would seem that he has acquired
the taste, it can only be that the taste has come
to him with captivity has been forced upon him,
I should have said. The old wild goldfish (this
is my theory) was a more terrible beast than we
think. Given his proper diet, he could not have
been kept within the limits of the terrace pool.
He would have been unsuited to domestic life ;
he would have dragged in the shrieking child as
she leant to feed him. As the result of many
experiments ants' eggs were given him to keep
Not That It Matters
him thin (you can see for yourself what a blood-
less diet it is), ants' eggs were given him to
quell his spirit ; and just as a man, if he has
sufficient colds, can get up a passion even for
ammoniated quinine, so the goldfish has grown in
captivity to welcome the once-hated omelette.
Let us consider now the case of the goldfish in
the house. His diet is the same, but how different
his surroundings ! If his bowl is placed on a
table in the middle of the floor, he has but to
flash his tail once and he has been all round the
drawing-room. The drawing-room may not seem
much to you, but to him this impressionist picture
through the curved glass must be amazing. Let
not the outdoor goldfish boast of his freedom.
What does he, in his little world of water-lily
roots, know of the vista upon vista which opens
to his more happy brother as he passes jauntily
from china dog to ottoman and from ottoman to
Henry's father? Ah, here is life! It may be
that in the course of years he will get used to it,
even bored by it ; indeed, for that reason I
always advocate giving him a glance at the
dining-room or the bedrooms on Wednesdays and
Saturdays ; but his first day in the bowl must be
the opening of an undreamt-of heaven to him.
Again, what an adventurous life is his. At
any moment a cat may climb up and fetch him
out, a child may upset him, grown-ups may
neglect to feed him or to change his water. The
temptation to take him up and massage him
must be irresistible to outsiders. All these
dangers the goldfish in the pond avoids ; he
lives a sheltered and unexciting life, and when
he wants to die he dies unnoticed, unregretted,
but for his brother the tears and the solemn
Yes; now that I have thought it out, I can
see that I was wrong in calling the indoor gold-
fish a symbol of mid- Victorian futility. An
article of this sort is no good if it does not
teach the writer something as well as his
readers. I recognize him now as the symbol
of enterprise and endurance, of restlessness and
Post-Impressionism. He is not mid- Victorian, he
is Fifth Georgian.
Which is all I want to say about goldfish.
Saturday to Monday o o *>
THE happy man would have happy faces
round him ; a sad face is a reproach to him
for his happiness. So when I escape by the 2.10
on Saturday I distribute largesse with a liberal
hand. The cabman, feeling that an effort is
required of him, mentions that I am the first
gentleman he has met that day ; he penetrates
my mufti and calls me captain, leaving it open
whether he regards me as a Salvation Army
captain or the captain of a barge. The porters
hasten to the door of my cab ; there is a little
struggle between them as to who shall have the
honour of waiting upon me. . . .
Inside the station things go on as happily.
The booking-office clerk gives me a pleasant
smile ; he seems to approve of the station I am
taking. " Some do go to Brighton," he implies,
" but for a gentleman like you " He pauses
to point out that with this ticket I can come
back on the Tuesday if I like (as, between
Saturday to Monday
ourselves, I hope to do). In exchange for his
courtesies I push him my paper through the pigeon ,
hole. A dirty little boy thrust it into my cab ; I
didn't want it, but as we are all being happy to-
day he had his penny.
I follow my porter to the platform. " On
the left/' says the ticket collector. He has
said it mechanically to a hundred persons,
but he becomes human and kindly as he says
it to me. I feel that he really wishes
me to get into the right train, to have a
pleasant journey down, to be welcomed heartily
by my friends when I arrive. It is not as
to one of a mob but to an individual that he
The porter has found me an empty carriage.
He is full of ideas for my comfort; he tells me
which way the train will start, where we stop,
and when we may be expected to arrive. Am I
sure I wouldn't like my bag in the van ? Can he
get me any papers ? No ; no, thanks. I don't
want to read. I give him sixpence, and there is
another one of us happy.
Presently the guard. He also seems pleased
that I have selected this one particular station
from among so many. Pleased, but not aston-
ished ; he expected it of me. It is a very good
Not That It Matters
run down in his train, and he shouldn't be sur-
prised if we had a fine week- end. . . .
I stand at the door of my carriage feeling very
happy. It is good to get out of London. Come
to think of it, we are all getting out of London,
and none of us is going to do any work to-morrow.
How jolly ! Oh, but what about my porter ?
Bother! I wish now I'd given him more than
sixpence. Still, he may have a sweetheart and
be happy that way.
We are off. I have nothing to read, but then
I want to think. It is the ideal place in which
to think, a railway carriage ; the ideal place in
which to be happy. I wonder if I shall be in
good form this week-end at cricket and tennis,
and croquet and billiards, and all the other jolly
games I mean to play. Look at those children
trying to play cricket in that dirty backyard.
Poor little beggars ! Fancy living in one of those
horrible squalid houses. But you cannot spoil to-
day for me, little backyards. On Tuesday per-
haps, when I am coming again to the ugly town,
your misery will make me miserable ; I shall ask
myself hopelessly what it all means ; but just
now I am too happy for pity. After all, why
should I assume that you envy me, you two
children swinging on a gate and waving to me ?
Saturday to Monday
You are happy, aren't you ? Of course ; we are
all happy to-day. See, I am waving back to you.
My eyes wander round the carriage and rest
on my bag. Have I put everything in ? Of
course I have. Then why this uneasy feeling
that I have left something very important out ?
Well, I can soon settle the question. Let's
start with to-night. Evening clothes they're in,
I know. Shirts, collars . . .
I go through the whole programme for the
week-end, allotting myself in my mind suitable
clothes for each occasion. Yes ; I seem to have
brought everything that I can possibly want. But
what a very jolly programme I am drawing up
for myself! Will it really be as delightful as
that ? Well, it was last time, and the time before ;
that is why I am so happy.
The train draws up at its only halt in the glow
of a September mid-afternoon. There is a little
pleasant bustle ; nice people get out and nice
people meet them ; everybody seems very cheery
and contented. Then we are off again . . . and
now the next station is mine.
We are there. A porter takes my things with
a kindly smile and a " Nice day." I see Brant
outside with the wagonette, not the trap ; then
I am not the only guest coming by this train.
Not That It Matters
Who are the others, I wonder. Anybody I
know? . . . Why, yes, it's Bob and Mrs. Bob,
and hallo ! Cynthia ! And isn't that old
Anderby? How splendid! I must get that
shilling back from Bob that I lost to him at
billiards last time. And if Cynthia really thinks
that she can play croquet . . .
We greet each other happily and climb into
the wagonette. Never has the country looked so
lovely. " No ; no rain at all," says Brant, " and
the glass is going up." The porter puts our
luggage in the cart and comes round with a smile.
It is a rotten life being a porter, and I do so
want everybody to enjoy this afternoon. Besides,
I haven't any coppers.
I slip half a crown into his palm. Now we are
all very, very happy.
The Pond *s* *> ^> *o <o
MY friend Aldenham's pond stands at a
convenient distance from the house, and
is reached by a well-drained gravel path ; so that
in any weather one may walk, alone or in company,
dry shod to its brink, and estimate roughly how
many inches of rain have fallen in the night. The
ribald call it the hippopotamus pond, tracing a
resemblance between it and the bath of the
hippopotamus at the Zoo, beneath the waters of
which, if you particularly desire to point the
hippopotamus out to somebody, he always lies
hidden. To the rest of us it is known simply as
" the pond " a designation which ignores the
existence of several neighbouring ponds, the gifts
of nature, and gives the whole credit to the
handiwork of man. For " the pond " is just a
small artificial affair of cement, entirely un-
There are seven steps to the bottom of the
pond, and each step is 10 in. high. Thus the
Not That It Matters
steps help to make the pond a convenient rain-
gauge ; for obviously when only three steps are
left uncovered, as was the case last Monday, you
know that there have been 40 in. of rain since
last month, when the pond began to fill. To
strangers this may seem surprising, and it is
only fair to tell them the great secret, which is
that much of the surrounding land drains secretly
into the pond too. This seems to me to give a
much fairer indication of the rain that has fallen
than do the official figures in the newspapers.
For when your whole day's cricket has been
spoilt, it is perfectly absurd to be told that '026
of an inch of rain has done the damage; the soul
yearns for something more startling than that
The record of the pond, that there has been
another 5 in., soothes us, where the record of the
ordinary pedantic rain-gauge would leave us
infuriated. It speaks much for my friend
Aldenham's breadth of view that he understood
this, and planned the pond accordingly.
A most necessary thing in a country house is
that there should be a recognized meeting-place,
where the people who have been writing a few
letters after breakfast may, when they have
finished, meet those who have no intention of
writing any, and arrange plans with them for the
morning. I am one of those who cannot write
letters in another man's house, and when my pipe
is well alight I say to Miss Robinson or whoever
it may be "Let's go and look at the pond."
" Right oh," she says willingly enough, having
spent the last quarter of an hour with The Times
Financial Supplement, all of the paper that is left
to the women in the first rush for the cricket
news. We wander down to the pond together,
and perhaps find Brown and Miss Smith there.
" A lot of rain in the night," says Brown. " It
was only just over the third step after lunch
yesterday." We have a little argument about it,
Miss Robinson being convinced that she stood on
the second step after breakfast, and Miss Smith
repeating that it looks exactly the same to her
this morning. By and by two or three others
stroll up, and we all make measurements together.
The general opinion is that there has been a lot
of rain in the night, and that .43 in. in three
weeks must be a record. But, anyhow, it is
fairly fine now, and what about a little lawn
tennis? Or golf? Or croquet? Or ? And
so the arrangements for the morning are
And they can be made more readily out of
doors ; for supposing it is fine the fresh air
Not That It Matters
calls you to be doing something, and the sight
of the newly marked tennis lawn fills you with
thoughts of revenge for your accidental defeat
the evening before. But indoors it is so easy to
drop into a sofa after breakfast, and, once there
with all the papers, to be disinclined to leave it
till lunch-time. A man or woman as lazy as this
must not be rushed. Say to such a one, " Come
and play," and the invitation will be declined.
Say, "Come and look at the pond," and the
worst sluggard will not refuse such gentle
exercise. And once he is out he is out.
All this for those delightful summer days when
there are fine intervals ; but consider the advan-
tages of the pond when the rain streams down
in torrents from morning till night. How tired
we get of being indoors on these days, even with
the best of books, the pleasantest of companions,
the easiest of billiard tables. Yet if our hostess
were to see us marching out with an umbrella,
how odd she would think us. " Where are you
off to ? " she would ask, and we could only answer
lamely, "Er I was just going to er walk
about a bit." But now we tell her brightly,
" I'm going to see the pond. It must be nearly
full. Won't you come too ? " And with any
luck she comes.
And you know, it even reconciles us a little to
these streaming days to reflect that it all goes to
fill the pond. For there is ever before our minds
that great moment in the future when the pond
is at last full. What will happen then?
Aldenham may know, but we his guests do not.
Some think there will be merely a flood over the
surrounding paths and the kitchen garden, but
for myself I believe that we are promised some-
thing much bigger than that. A man with such
a broad and friendly outlook towards rain-gauges
will be sure to arrange something striking when
the great moment arrives. Some sort of fete
will help to celebrate it, I have no doubt ; with
an open-air play, tank drama, or what not.
At any rate we have every hope that he will
empty the pond as speedily as possible so that we
may watch it fill again.
I must say that he has been a little lucky in
his choice of a year for inaugurating the pond.
But, all the same, there are now 45 in. of rain in
it, 45 in. of rain have fallen in the last three
weeks, and I think that something ought to be
done about it.
A Seventeenth- Century Story o o
r I ^HERE is a story in every name in that first
J. column of The Times Births, Marriages,
and Deaths down which we glance each morn-
ing, but, unless the name is known to us, we
do not bother about the stories of other people.
They are those not very interesting people, our
contemporaries. But in a country churchyard
a name on an old tombstone will set us wonder-
ing a little. What sort of life came to an end
there a hundred years ago ?
In the parish register we shall find the whole
history of them ; when they were bom, when
they were married, how many children they had,
when they died a skeleton of their lives which
we can clothe with our fancies and make living
again. Simple lives, we make them, in that
pleasant countryside ; " Man comes and tills the
field and lies beneath " ; that is all. Simple
work, simple pleasures, and a simple death.
Of course we are wrong. There were passions
A Seventeenth-Century Story
and pains in those lives ; tragedies perhaps. The
tombstones and the registers say nothing of
them ; or, if they say it, it is in a cypher to which
we have not the key. Yet sometimes the key
is almost in our hands. Here is a story from the
register of a village church four entries only,
but they hide a tragedy which with a little
imagination we can almost piece together for
The first entry is a marriage. John Meadowes
of Littlehaw Manor, bachelor, took Mary Field
to wife (both of this parish) on 7th November 1681.
There were no children of the marriage.
Indeed, it only lasted a year. A year later,
on 12th November 1682, John died and was
Poor Mary Meadowes was now alone at the
Manor. We picture her sitting there in her
loneliness, broken-hearted, refusing to be com-
forted. . . .
Until we come to the third entry. John has
only been in his grave a month, but here is the
third entry, telling us that on 12th December
1682, Robert Cliff, bachelor, was married to Mary
Meadowes, widow. It spoils our picture of
her. . . .
And then the fourth entry. It is the fourth
Not That It Matters
entry which reveals the tragedy, which makes
us wonder what is the story hidden away in the
parish register of Littlehaw the mystery of
Littlehaw Manor. For here is another death,
the death of Mary Cliff, and Mary Cliff died on
... 13th December 1682.
And she was buried in unconsecrated ground.
For Mary Cliff (we must suppose) had killed
herself. She had killed herself on the day after
her marriage to her second husband.
Well, what is the story? We shall have to
make it up for ourselves. Here is my rendering
of it. I have no means of finding out if it is the
correct one, but it seems to fit itself within the
facts as we know them.
Mary Field was the daughter of well-to-do
parents, an only child, and the most desirable
bride, from the worldly point of view, in the
village. No wonder, then, that her parents'
choice of a husband for her fell upon the most
desirable bridegroom of the village John
Meadowes. The Fields' land adjoined Little-
haw Manor ; one day the child of John and
Mary would own it all. Let a marriage, then,
But Mary loved Robert Cliff whole-heartedly
Robert, a man of no standing at all. A ridi-
A Seventeenth-Century Story
culous notion, said her parents, but the silly girl
would grow out of it. She was taken by a
handsome face. Once she was safely wedded
to John, she would forget her foolishness. John
might not be handsome, but he was a solid,
steady fellow ; which was more much more, as
it turned out than could be said for Robert.
So John and Mary married. But she still
loved Robert. ...
Did she kill her husband? Did she and
Robert kill him together? Or did she only
hasten his death by her neglect of him in some
illness? Did she dare him to ride some devil
of a horse which she knew he could not master ;
did she taunt him into some foolhardy feat; or
did she deliberately kill him with or without
her lover's aid ? I cannot guess, but of this I
am certain. His death was on her conscience.
Directly or indirectly she was responsible for it
or, at any rate, felt herself responsible for it.
But she would not think of it too closely ; she
had room for only one thought in her mind. She
was mistress of Littlehaw Manor now, and free to
marry whom she wished. Free, at last, to marry
Robert. Whatever had been done had been
worth doing for that.
So she married him. And then so I read
Not That It Matters
the story she discovered the truth. Robert had
never loved her. He had wanted to marry the
rich Miss Field, that was all. Still more, he had
wanted to marry the rich Mrs. Meadowes. He
was quite callous about it. She might as well
know the truth now as later. It would save
trouble in the future, if she knew.
So Mary killed herself. She had murdered
John for nothing. Whatever her responsibility
for John's death, in the bitterness of that dis-
covery she would call it murder. She had a
murder on her conscience for love's sake and
there was no love. What else to do but follow
John? . . .
Is that the story ? I wonder.
Our Learned Friends^ o <> <>
I do not know why the Bar has always seemed
the most respectable of the professions, a
profession which the hero of almost any novel
could adopt without losing caste. But so it is.
A schoolmaster can be referred to contemptu-
ously as an usher ; a doctor is regarded humor-
ously as a licensed murderer ; a solicitor is always
retiring to gaol for making away with trust
funds, and, in any case, is merely an attorney ;
while a civil servant sleeps from ten to four
every day, and is only waked up at sixty in order
to be given a pension. But there is no humorous
comment to be made upon the barrister unless
it is to call him "my learned friend." He has
much more right than the actor to claim to be
a member of the profession. I don't know why.
Perhaps it is because he walks about the Temple
in a top-hat.
So many of one's acquaintances at some time
or other have " eaten dinners " that one hai-dly
Not That It Matters
dares to say anything against the profession.
Besides, one never knows when one may not
want to be defended. However, I shall take the
risk, and put the barrister in the dock. " Gentle-
men of the jury, observe this well-dressed gentle-
man before you. What shall we say about him ? "
Let us begin by asking ourselves what we
expect from a profession. In the first place,
certainly, we expect a living, but I think we
want something more than that. If we were
offered a thousand a year to walk from Charing
Cross to Barnet every day, reasons of poverty
might compel us to accept the offer, but we
should hardly be proud of our new profession.
We should prefer to earn a thousand a year by
doing some more useful work. Indeed, to a man
of any fine feeling the profession of Barnet-
walking would only be tolerable if he could per-
suade himself that by his exertions he was help-
ing to revive the neglected art of pedestrianism,
or to make more popular the neglected beauties
of Barnet ; if he could hope that, after his three-
hundredth journey, inquisitive people would
begin to follow him, wondering what he was
after, and so come suddenly upon the old Nor-
man church at the cross-roads, or, if they missed
this, at any rate upon a much better appetite
Our Learned Friends
for their dinner. That is to say, he would have to
persuade himself that he was walking, not only
for himself, but also for the community.
It seems to me, then, that a profession is a
noble or an ignoble one, according as it offers or
denies to him who practises it the opportunity
of working for some other end than his own
advancement. A doctor collects fees from his
patients, but he is aiming at something more
than pounds, shillings, and pence ; he is out to
put an end to suffering. A schoolmaster earns
a living by teaching, but he does not feel that
he is fighting only for himself; he is a crusader
on behalf of education. The artist, whatever
his medium, is giving a message to the world,
expressing the truth as he sees it; for his own
profit, perhaps, but not for that alone. All these
and a thousand other ways of living have some-
thing of nobility in them. We enter them full
of high resolves. We tell ourselves that we will
follow the light as it has been revealed to us;
that our ideals shall never be lowered ; that we
will refuse to sacrifice our principles to our
interests. We fail, of course. The painter finds
that " Mother's Darling " brings in the stuff, and
he turns out Mother's Darlings mechanically.
The doctor neglects research and cultivates in-
Not That It Matters
stead a bedside manner. The schoolmaster drops
all his theories of education and conforms hastily
to those of his employers. We fail, but it is not
because the profession is an ignoble one ; we
had our chances. Indeed, the light is still there
for those who look. It beckons to us.
Now what of the Bar ? Is the barrister after
anything other than his own advancement ? He
follows what gleam? What are his ideals?
Never mind whether he fails more often or less
often than others to attain them ; I am not
bothering about that. I only want to know what
it is that he is after. In the quiet hours when we
are alone with ourselves and there is nobody to tell
us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes
upon a weak moment in which we wonder, not
how much money we are earning, nor how famous
we are becoming, but what good we are doing.
If a barrister ever has such a moment, what is
his consolation ? It can only be that he is help-
ing Justice to be administered. If he is to be
proud of his profession, and in that lonely mo-
ment tolerant of himself, he must feel that he
is taking a noble part in the vindication of
legal right, the punishment of legal wrong.
But he must do more than this. Just as the
doctor, with increased knowledge and experi-
Our Learned Friends
ence, becomes a better fighter against disease,
advancing himself, no doubt, but advancing also
medical science ; just as the schoolmaster, having
learnt new and better ways of teaching, can now
give a better education to his boys, increasing
thereby the sum of knowledge ; so the barrister
must be able to tell himself that the more expert
he becomes as an advocate, the better will he
be able to help in the administration of this
Justice which is his ideal.
Can he tell himself this ? I do not see how he
can. His increased expertness will be of increased
service to himself, of increased service to his
clients, but no ideal will be the better served
by reason of it. Let us take a case Smith v.
Jones. Counsel is briefed for Smith. 'After
examining the case he tells himself in effect
this : " As far as I can see, the Law is all on the
other side. Luckily, however, sentiment is on
our side. Given an impressionable jury, there's
just a chance that we might pull it off. It's
worth trying." He tries, and if he is sufficiently
expert he pulls it off. A triumph for himself,
but what has happened to the ideal? Did he
even think, " Of course I'm bound to do the best
for my client, but he's in the wrong, and I hope
we lose ? " I imagine not. The whole teach-
Not That It Matters
ing of the Bar is that he must not bother about
justice, but only about his own victory. What
ultimately, then, is he after? What does the
Bar offer its devotees beyond material success ?
I asked just now what were a barrister's ideals.
Suppose we ask instead, What is the ideal
barrister ? If one spoke loosely of an ideal doctor,
one would not necessarily mean a titled gentle-
man in Harley Street. An ideal schoolmaster
is not synonymous with the Headmaster of Eton
or the owner of the most profitable preparatory
school. But can there be an ideal barrister other
than a successful barrister ? The eager young
writer, just beginning ,a literary career, might
fix his eyes upon Francis Thompson rather than
upon Sir Hall Caine ; the eager young clergy-
man might dream dreams over the Life of Father
Damien more often than over the Life of the
Archbishop of Canterbury ; but to what star can
the eager young barrister hitch his wagon, save
to the star of material success ? If he does not
see himself as Sir Edward Carson, it is only be-
cause he thinks that perhaps after all Sir John
Simon's manner is the more effective.
There may be other answers to the questions
I have asked than the answers I have given, but
it is no answer to ask me how the law can be
Our Learned Friends
administered without barristers. I do not know ;
nor do I know how the roads can be swept
without getting somebody to sweep them. But
that would not disqualify me from saying that
road-sweeping was an unattractive profession.
So also I am entitled to my opinion about the
Bar, which is this. That because it offers material
victories only and never spiritual ones, that be-
cause there can be no standard by which its
disciples are judged save the earthly standard,
that because there is no place within its ranks
for the altruist or the idealist for these reasons
the Bar is not one of the noble professions.
A Word for Autumn o *> *>
LAST night the waiter put the celery on
with the cheese, and I knew that summer
was indeed dead. Other signs of autumn there
may be the reddening leaf, the chill in the
early-morning air, the misty evenings but none
of these comes home to me so truly. There may
be cool mornings in July ; in a year of drought
the leaves may change before their tune ; it is
only with the first celery that summer is over.
I knew all along that it would not last. Even
in April I was saying that winter would soon be
here. Yet somehow it had begun to seem
possible lately that a miracle might happen, that
summer might drift on and on through the
months a final upheaval to crown a wonderful
year. The celery settled that. Last night with
the celery autumn came into its own.
There is a crispness about celery that is of the
essence of October. It is as fresh and clean as a
rainy day after a spell of heat. It crackles
A Word for Autumn
pleasantly in the mouth. Moreover it is
excellent, I am told, for the complexion. One
is always hearing of things which are good for
the complexion, but there is no doubt that celery
stands high on the list. After the burns and
freckles of summer one is in need of something.
How good that celery should be there -at one's
A week ago (" A little more cheese, waiter ")
a week ago I grieved for the dying summer.
I wondered how I could possibly bear the waiting
the eight long months till May. In vain to
comfort myself with the thought that I could get
through more work in the winter undistracted by
thoughts of cricket grounds and country houses.
In vain, equally, to tell myself that I could stay
in bed later in the mornings. Even the thought
of after-breakfast pipes in front of the fire left me
cold. But now, suddenly, I am reconciled to
autumn. I see quite clearly that all good things
must come to an end. The summer has been
splendid, but it has lasted long enough. This
morning I welcomed the chill in the air ; this
morning I viewed the falling leaves with cheerful-
ness ; and this morning I said to myself, " Why,
of course, I'll have celery for lunch."" (" More
Not That It Matters
"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,"
said Keats, not actually picking out celery in so
many words, but plainly including it in the general
blessings of the autumn. Yet what an oppor-
tunity he missed by not concentrating on that
precious root. Apples, grapes, nuts, and
vegetable marrows he mentions specially and
how poor a selection! For apples and grapes
are not typical of any month, so ubiquitous are
they, vegetable marrows are vegetables pour tire
and have no place in any'serious consideration of
the seasons, while as for nuts, have we not a
national song which asserts distinctly, " Here we
go gathering nuts in May " ? Season of mists
and mellow celery, then let it be. A pat of
butter underneath the bough, a wedge of cheese,
a loaf of bread and Thou.
How delicate are the tender shoots unfolded
layer by layer. Of what a whiteness is the last
baby one of all, of what a sweetness his flavour.
It is well that this should be the last rite of the
meal -Jinis coronal opus so that we may go
straight on to the business of the pipe. Celery
demands a pipe rather than a cigar, and it can be
eaten better in an inn or a London tavern than in
the home. Yes, and it should be eaten alone,
for it is the only food which one really wants to
A Word for Autumn
hear oneself eat. Besides, in company one may
have to consider the wants of others. Celery is
not a thing to share with any man. Alone in
your country inn you may call for the celery ;
but if you are wise you will see that no other
traveller wanders into the room. Take warning
from one who has learnt a lesson. One day I
lunched alone at an inn, finishing with cheese
and celery. Another traveller came in and
lunched too. We did not speak I was busy
with my celery. From the other end of the
table he reached across for the cheese. That
was all right ; it was the public cheese. But he
also reached across for the celery my private
celery for which I owed. Foolishly you know
how one does I had left the sweetest and
crispest shoots till the last, tantalizing myself
pleasantly with the thought of them. Horror !
to see them snatched from me by a stranger.
He realized later what he had done and apolo-
gized, but of what good is an apology in such
circumstances ? Yet at least the tragedy was not
without its value. Now one remembers to lock
Yes, I can face the winter with calm. I
suppose I had forgotten what it was really like.
I had been thinking of the winter as a horrid.
Not That It Matters
wet, dreary time fit only for professional football.
Now I can see other things crisp and sparkling
days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires. Good
work shall be done this winter. Life shall be
lived well. The end of the summer is not the
end of the world. Here's to October and,
waiter, some more celery.
A Christmas Numbers o o o
THE common joke against the* Christmas
number is that it is planned in July and
made up in September. This enables it to be
published in the middle of November and circu-
lated in New Zealand by Christmas. If it were
published in England at Christmas, New Zealand
wouldn't get it till February. Apparently it is
more important that the colonies should have it
punctually than that we should.
Anyway, whenever it is made up, all journalists
hate the Christmas number. But they only hate
it for one reason this being that the ordinary
weekly number has to be made up at the same
time. As a journalist I should like to devote the
autumn exclusively to the Christmas number, and
as a member of the public I should adore it when
it came out. Not having been asked to produce
such a number on my own I can amuse myself
here by sketching out a plan for it. I follow the
fine old tradition.
Not That It Matters
First let us get the stories settled. Story No. 1
deals with the escaped convict. The heroine is
driving back from the country-house ball, where
she has had two or three proposals, when suddenly,
in the most lonely part of the snow-swept moor,
a figure springs out of the ditch and covers the
coachman with a pistol. Alarms and confusions.
" Oh, sir," says the heroine, " spare my aunt and
I will give you all my jewels." The convict, for
such it is, staggers back. " Lucy ! " he cries.
" Harold ! " she gasps. The aunt says nothing,
for she has swooned. At this point the story
stops to explain how Harold came to be in knicker-
bockers. He had either been falsely accused or
else he had been a solicitor. Anyhow, he had
by this time more than paid for his folly, and
Lupy still loved him. "Get in," she says, and
drives him home. Next day he leaves for New
Zealand in an ordinary lounge suit. Need I say
that Lucy joins him later? No; that shall be
left for your imagination. The End.
So much for the first story. The second is an
"i'-faith-and-stap-me " story of the good old days.
It is not seasonable, for most of the action takes
place in my lord's garden amid the scent of roses ;
but it brings back to us the old romantic days
when fighting and swearing were more picturesque
A Christmas Number
than they are now, and when women loved and
worked samplers. This sort of story can be read
best in front of the Christmas log ; it is of the
past, and comes naturally into a Christmas number.
I shall not describe its plot, for that is unim-
portant ; it is the " stap me's " and the "la, sirs,"
which matter. But I may say that she marries
him all right in the end, and he goes off happily
to the wars.
We want another story. What shall this one
be about? It might be about the amateur
burglar, or the little child who reconciled old
Sir John to his daughter's marriage, or the ghost
at Enderby Grange, or the millionaire's Christmas
dinner, or the accident to the Scotch express.
Personally, I do not care for any of these ; my
vote goes for the desert-island story. Proud
Lady Julia has fallen off the deck of the liner,
and Ronald, refused by her that morning, dives
off the hurricane deck or the bowsprit or wher-
ever he happens to be and seizes her as she is
sinking for the third time. It is a foggy night
and their absence is unnoticed. Dawn finds
them together on a little coral reef. They are
in no danger, for several liners are due to pass
in a day or two and Ronald's pockets are full of
biscuits and chocolate, but it is awkwaixl for Lady
Not That It Matters
Julia, who had hoped that they would never meet
again. So they sit on the beach back to back
(drawn by Dana Gibson) and throw sarcastic
remarks over their shoulders at each other. In
the end he tames her proud spirit I think by
hiding the turtles' eggs from her and the next
liner but one takes the happy couple back to
But it is time we had some poetry. I propose
to give you one serious poem about robins, and
one double-page humorous piece, well illustrated
in colours. I think the humorous verses must
deal with hunting. Hunting does not lend itself
to humour, for there are only two hunting jokes
the joke of the horse which came down at the
brook and the joke of the Cockney who overrode
hounds ; but there are traditions to keep up, and
the artist always loves it. So far we have not
considered the artist sufficiently. Let us give
him four full pages. One of pretty girls hanging
up mistletoe, one of the squire and his family
going to church in the snow, one of a broken-
down coach with highwaymen coming over the
hill, and one of the postman bringing loads and
loads of parcels. You have all Christmas in those
four pictures. But there is room for another
page let it be a coloured page of half a dozen
A Christmas Number
sketches, the period and the lettering very early
English. "Ye Baron de Marchebankes calleth
for hys varlet." "Ye varlet cometh righte
hastilie " You know the delightful kind of
I confess that this is the sort of Christmas
number which I love. You may say that you have
seen it all before ; I say that that is why I love
it. The best of Christmas is that it reminds us
of other Christmases ; it should be the boast of
Christmas numbers that they remind us of other
But though I doubt if I shall get quite what I
want from any one number this year, yet there
will surely be enough in all the numbers to
bring Christmas very pleasantly before the eyes.
In a dull November one likes to be reminded
that Christmas is coming. It is perhaps as well
that the demands of the colonies give us our
Christmas numbers so early. At the same time
it is difficult to see why New Zealand wants a
Christmas number at all. As I glance above at
the plan of my model paper I feel more than ever
how adorable it would be but not, oh not with
the thermometer at a hundred in the shade.
No Flowers by Request o o o
IF a statement is untrue, it is not the more
respectable because it has been said in Latin.
We owe the war, directly, no doubt, to the
Kaiser, but indirectly to the Roman idiot who
said, " Si vis pacem, para helium." Having mis-
laid my Dictionary of Quotations I cannot give
you his name, but I have my money on him as
the greatest murderer in history.
Yet there have always been people who
would quote this classical lie as if it were at
least as authoritative as anything said in the
Sermon on the Mount. It was said a long
time ago, and in a strange language that was
enough for them. In the same way they will
say, " De mortuis nil nisi bonum." But I warn
them solemnly that it will take a good deal
more than this to stop me from saying what
I want to say about the recently expired month
I have waited purposely until February was
No Flowers by Request
dead. Cynics may say that this was only
wisdom, in that a damnatory notice from me
might have inspired that unhappy month to an
unusually brilliant run, out of sheer wilfulness.
I prefer to think that it was good manners
which forbade me to be disrespectful to her
very face. It is bad manners to speak the
truth to the living, but February is dead. De
mortuis nil nisi veritas.
The truth about poor February is that she
is the worst month of the year. But let us be
fair to her. She has never had a chance. We
cannot say to her, " Look upon this picture and
on this. This you might have been ; this you
are." There is no "might have been" for her,
no ideal February. The perfect June we can
imagine for ourselves. Personally I do not
mind how hot it be, but there must be plenty
of strawberries. The perfect April ah, one dare
not think of the perfect April. That can only
happen in the next world. Yet April may
always be striving for it, though she never
reach it. But the perfect February what is
it ? I know not. Let us pity February, then,
even while we blame her.
For February comes just when we are sick
of winter, and therefore she may not be wintry.
Not That It Matter^
Wishing to do her best, she ventures her spring
costume, crocus and primrose and daffodil days ;
days when the first faint perfume of mint is
blown down the breezes, and one begins to
wonder how the lambs are shaping. Is that
the ideal February ? Ah no ! For we cannot
be deceived. We know that spring is not
here ; that March is to come with its frosts
and perchance its snows, a worse March for
the milder February, a plunge back into the
winter which poor February tried to natter us
Such a February is a murderer an acces-
sory to the murders of March. She lays the
ground-bait for the victims. Out pop the
stupid little flowers, eager to be deceived (one
could forgive the annuals, but the perennials
ought to know better by now), and down comes
March, a roaring lion, to gobble them up.
And how much lost fruit do we not owe to
February! One feels a layman like myself
feels that it should be enough to have a straw-
berry-bed, a peach-tree, a fig-tree. If these are
not enough, then the addition of a gardener
should make the thing a certainty. Yet how
often will not a gardener refer one back to
February as the real culprit. The tree blos-
No Flowers by Request
somed too early ; the late frosts killed it ; in
the annoyance of the moment one may reproach
the gardener for allowing it to blossom so
prematurely, but one cannot absolve February
of all blame.
It is no good, then, for February to try to
be spring ; no hope for her to please us by
prolonging winter. What is left to her? She
cannot even give us the pleasure of the hair-
shirt. Did April follow her, she could make
the joys of that wonderful month even keener
for us by the contrast, but she is followed by
March. What can one do with March ? One
does not wear a hair-shirt merely to enjoy the
pleasure of following it by one slightly less
Well, we may agree that February is no
good% "Oh, to be out of England now that
February's here," is what Browning should
have said. One has no use for her in this
country. Pope Gregory, or whoever it was
that arranged the calendar, must have had
influential relations in England who urged on
him the need for making February the shortest
month of the year. Let us be grateful to His
Holiness that he was so persuaded. He was
a little obstinate about Leap Year ; a more
Not That It Matters
imaginative pontiff would have given the extra
day to April ; but he was amenable enough
for a man who only had his relations' word
for it. Every first of March I raise my glass
to Gregory. Even as a boy I used to drink
one of his powders to him at about this time
of the year.
February fill-dyke! Well, that's all that can
be said for it.
The Unfairness of Things o o o
THE most interesting column in any paper
(always excepting those which I write my-
self) is that entitled " The World's Press," wherein
one may observe the world as it appears to a
press of which one has for the most part never
heard. It is in this column that I have just
made the acquaintance of The Shoe Manufacturers'
Monthly, the journal to which the elect turn
eagerly upon each new moon. (Its one-time
rival, The Footwear Fortnightly, has, I am told/
quite lost its following.) The bon mot of the
current number of The S.M.M. is a note to the
effect that Kaffirs have a special fondness for
boots which make a noise. I quote this simply
as an excuse for referring to the old problem of
the squeaky boots and the squeaky collar; the
problem, in fact, of the unfairness of things.
The majors and clubmen who assist their
country with columns of advice on clothes have
often tried to explain why a collar squeaks, but
Not That It Matters
have never done so to the satisfaction of any
man of intelligence. They say that the collar
is too large or too small, too dirty or too clean.
They say that if you have your collars made
for you (like a gentleman) you will be all right,
but that if you buy the cheap, ready-made article,
what can you expect ? They say that a little
soap on the outside of the shirt, or a little some-
thing on the inside of something else, that this,
that, and the other will abate the nuisance.
They are quite wrong.
The simple truth, and everybody knows it
really, is that collars squeak for some people
and not for others. A squeaky collar round the
neck of a man is a comment, not upon the
collar, but upon the man. That man is unlucky.
Things are against him. Nature may have done
all for him that she could, have given him a
handsome outside and a noble inside, but the
world of inanimate objects is against him.
We all know the man whom children or dogs
love instinctively. It is a rare gift to be able to
inspire this affection. The Fates have been kind
to him. But to inspire the affection of inanimate
things is something greater. The man to whom
a collar or a window sash takes instinctively is a
man who may truly be said to have luck on his side.
The Unfairness of Things
Consider him for a moment. His collar never
squeaks; his clothes take a delight in fitting
him. At a dinner-party he walks as by instinct
straight to his seat, what time you and I are
dragging our partners round and round the
table in search of our cards. The windows of
taxicabs open to him easily. When he travels
by train his luggage works its way to the front
of the van and is the first to jump out at
Paddington. String hastens to undo itself when
he approaches ; he is the only man who can make
a decent impression with sealing-wax. If he is
asked by the hostess in a crowded drawing-room
to ring the bell, that bell comes out from behind
the sofa where it hid from us and places itself in
a convenient spot before his eyes. Asparagus
. stiffens itself at sight of him, macaroni winds
itself round his fork.
You will observe that I am not describing just
the ordinary lucky man. t^e may lose thousands
on the Stock Exchange ; he may be jilted ;
whenever he goes to the Oval to see Hobbs,
Hobbs may be out first ball ; he may invariably
get mixed up in railway accidents. That is a
kind of ill-luck which one can bear, not indeed
without grumbling, but without rancour. The
man who is unlucky to experience these things
Not That It Matters
at least has the consolation of other people's
sympathy ; but the man who is the butt of
inanimate things has no one's sympathy. We
may be on a motor bus which overturns and
nobody will say that it is our fault, but if our
collar deliberately and maliciously squeaks, every-
body will say that we ought to buy better
collars ; if our dinner cards hide from us, or the
string of our parcel works itself into knots, we
are called clumsy ; our asparagus and macaroni
give us a reputation for bad manners ; our
luggage gets us a name for dilatoriness.
I think we, we others, have a right to complain.
However lucky we may be in other ways, if
we have not this luck of inanimate things we
have a right to complain. It is pleasant, I admit,
to win 500 on the Stock Exchange by a stroke
of sheer good fortune, but even in the blue of
this there is a cloud, for the next 500 that we
win by a stroke of shrewd business will certainly
be put down to luck. Luck is given the credit
of all our successes, but the other man is given
the credit of all his luck. That is why we have
a right to complain.
I do not know why things should conspire
against a man. Perhaps there is some justice
in it. It is possible nay, probable that the
The Unfairness of Things
man whom things love is hated by animals and
children even by his fellow-men. Certainly he
is hated by me. Indeed, the more I think of
him, the more I see that he is not a nice man
in any way. The gods have neglected him ; he
has no good qualities. He is a worm. No
wonder, then, that this small compensation is
doled out to him the gift of getting on with
inanimate things. This gives him (with the
unthinking) a certain reputation for readiness
and dexterity. If ever you meet a man with
such a reputation, you will know what he
Circumstances connected with the hour at
which I rose this morning ordained that I should
write this article in a dressing-gown. I shall
now put on a collar. I hope it will squeak.
Daffodils o o o *e> ^> -&
THE confession-book, I suppose, has dis-
appeared. It is twenty years since I have
seen one. As a boy I told some inquisitive
owner what was my favourite food (porridge, I
fancy), my favourite hero in real life and in
fiction, my favourite virtue in woman, and so
forth. I was a boy, and it didn't really matter
what were my likes and dislikes then, for I was
bound to outgrow them. But Heaven helpt he
journalist of those days who had to sign his name
to opinions so definite ! For when a writer has
said in print (as I am going to say directly)
that the daffodil is his favourite flower, simply
because, looking round his room for inspiration,
he has seen a bowl of daffodils on his table and
thought it beautiful, it would be hard on him if
some confession-album-owner were to expose him
in the following issue 'as already committed on
oath to the violet. Imaginative art would be-
Fortunately I have no commitments, and I
may affirm that the daffodil is, and always has
been, my favourite flower. Many people will put
their money on the rose, but it is impossible that
the rose can give them the pleasure which the
daffodil gives them, just as it is impossible that
a thousand pounds can give Rockefeller the
pleasure which it gives you or me. For the
daffodil comes, not only before the swallow
comes which is a matter of indifference, as no-
body thinks any the worse of the swallow in
consequence but before all the many flowers of
summer; it comes on the heels of a flowerless
winter. Whereby it is as superior to the rose
as an oasis in the Sahara is to champagne at a
Yes, a favourite flower must be a spring flower
there is no doubt about that. You have your
choice, then, of the daffodil, the violet, the prim-
rose, and the crocus. The bluebell comes too
late, the cowslip is but an indifferent primrose ;
camelias and anemones and all the others which
occur to you come into a different class. Well,
then, will you choose the violet or the crocus ?
Or will you follow the legendary Disraeli and
have primroses on your statue ?
I write as one who spends most of his life in
Not That It Matters
London, and for me the violet, the primrose, and
the crocus are lacking in the same necessary
quality they pick badly. My favourite flower
must adorn my house ; to show itself off to the
best advantage within doors it must have a long
stalk. A crocus, least of all, is a flower to be
plucked. I admit its charm as the first hint of
spring that is vouchsafed to us in the parks, but
I want it nearer home than that. You cannot
pick a crocus and put it in water ; nor can you
be so cruel as to spoil the primrose and the violet
by taking them from their natural setting; but
the daffodil cries aloud to be picked. It is what
it is waiting for.
"Long stalks, please." Who, being com-
manded by his lady to bring in flowers for the
house, has not received this warning? And
was there ever a stalk to equal the daffodil's for
length and firmness and beauty ? Other flowers
must have foliage to set them off, but daffodils
can stand by themselves in a bowl, and their
green and yellow dress brings all spring into the
room. A house with daffodils in it is a house lit
up, whether or no the sun be shining outside.
Daffodils in a green bowl and let it snow if
Wordsworth wrote a poem about daffodils.
He wrote poems about most flowers. If a plant
would be unique it must be one which had never
inspired him to song. But he did not write
about daffodils in a bowl. The daffodils which
I celebrate are stationary; Wordsworth's lived
on the banks of Ullswater, and fluttered and
tossed their heads and danced in the breeze.
He hints that in their company even he might
have been jocose a terrifying thought, which
makes me happier to have mine safely indoors.
When he first saw them there (so he says) he
gazed and gazed and little thought what wealth
the show to him had brought. Strictly speaking,
it hadn't brought him in anything at the mo-
ment, but he must have known from his previous
experiences with the daisy and the celandine
that it was good for a certain amount.
A simple daffodil to him
Was so much matter for a slim
Volume at two and four.
You may say, of course, that I am in no better
case, but then I have never reproached other
people (as he did) for thinking of a primrose
merely as a primrose.
But whether you prefer them my way or
Wordsworth's indoors or outdoors will make
Not That It Matters
no difference in this further matter to which
finally I call your attention. Was there ever a
more beautiful name in the world than daffodil ?
Say it over to yourself, and then say "aga-
panthus" or "chrysanthemum/' or anything else
you please, and tell me if the daffodils do not
Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies,
Let them live upon their praises ;
Long as there's a sun that sets,
Primroses will have their glory ;
Long as there are violets
They will have a place in story;
But for flowers my bowls to fill,
Give me just the daffodil.
As Wordsworth ought to have said.
A Household Book o o o <s*
ONCE on a time I discovered Samuel Butler ;
not the other two, but the one who wrote
The Way of All Flesh, the second-best novel in
the English language. I say the second-best, so
that, if you remind me of Tom Jones or The Mayor
of Casterbridge or any other that you fancy, I can
say that, of course, that one is the best. Well,
I discovered him, just as Voltaire discovered
Habakkuk, or your little boy discovered Shake-
speare the other day, and I committed my dis-
covery to the world in two glowing articles. Not
unnaturally the world remained unmoved. It
knew all about Samuel Butler.
Last week I discovered a Frenchman, Claude
Tillier, who wrote in the early part of last century
a book called Mon Oncle Benjamin, which may be
freely translated Mr Uncle Benjamin. (I read it
in the translation.) Eager as I am to be lyrical
about it, I shall refrain. I think that I am
probably safer with Tillier than with Butler, but
Not That It Matters
I dare not risk it. The thought of your scorn at
my previous ignorance of the world-famous Tillier,
your amused contempt because I have only just
succeeded in borrowing the classic upon which
you were brought up, this is too much for me.
Let us say no more about it. Claude Tillier who
has not heard of Claude Tillier ? Mon Oncle
Benjamin who has not read it, in French or (as
I did) in American ? Let us pass on to another
For I am going to speak of another discovery ;
of a book which should be a classic, but is not ;
of a book of which nobody has heard unless
through me. It was published some twelve years
ago, the last-published book of a well-known
writer. When I tell you his name you will say,
" Oh yes ! I love his books ! " and you will
mention So-and-So, and its equally famous sequel
Such-and-Such. But when I ask you if you have
read my book, you will profess surprise, and say
that you have never heard of it. " Is it as good
as So-and-So and Such-and-Such ? " you will ask,
hardly believing that this could be possible.
" Much better," I shall reply and there, if these
things were arranged properly, would be another
ten per cent, in my pocket. But, believe me, I
shall be quite content with your gratitude.
A Household Book
Well, the writer of my book is Kenneth
Grahame. You have heard of him? Good, I
thought so. The books you have read are The
Golden Age and Dream Days, Am I not right ?
Thank you. But the book you have not read
my book is The Wind in the Willows. Am I not
right again ? Ah, I was afraid so.
The reason why I knew you had not read it
is the reason why I call it " my " book. For the
last ten or twelve years I have been recommending
it. Usually 1 speak about it at my first meeting
with a stranger. It is my opening remark, just
as yours is something futile about the weather.
If I don't get it in at the beginning, I squeeze it
in at the end. The stranger has got to have it
some time. Should I ever find myself in the
dock, and one never knows, my answer to the
question whether I had anything to say would
be, " Well, my lord, if I might just recommend
a book to the jury before leaving." Mr. Justice
Darling would probably pretend that he had read
it, but he wouldn't deceive me.
For one cannot recommend a book to all the
hundreds of people whom one has met in ten years
without discovering whether it is well known or
not. It is the amazing truth that none of those
hundreds had heard of The Wind in the Willows
Not That It Matters
until I told them about it. Some of them had
never heard of Kenneth Grahame ; well, one did
not have to meet them again, and it takes all
sorts to make a world. But most of them were
in your position great admirers of the author
and his two earlier famous books, but ignorant
thereafter. I had their promise before they left
me, and waited confidently for their gratitude.
No doubt they also spread the good news in their
turn, and it is just possible that it reached you
in this way, but it was to me, none the less, that
your thanks were due. For instance, you may
have noticed a couple of casual references to it,
as if it were a classic known to all, in a famous
novel published last year. It was I who intro-
duced that novelist to it six months before.
Indeed, I feel sometimes that it was I who wrote
The Wind in the Willows, and recommended it to
Kenneth Grahame ... but perhaps I am wrong
here, for I have not the pleasure of his acquaint-
ance. Nor, as I have already lamented, am I
financially interested in its sale, an explanation
which suspicious strangers require from me some-
I shall not describe the book, for no description
would help it. But I shall just say this ; that it
is what I call a Household Book. By a House-
A Household Book
hold Book I mean a book which everybody in the
household loves and quotes continually ever after-
wards ; a book which is read aloud to every new
guest, and is regarded as the touchstone of his
worth. But it is a book which makes you feel
that, though everybody in the house loves it, it
is only you who really appreciate it at its true
value, and that the others are scarcely worthy of
it. It is obvious, you persuade yourself, that the
author was thinking of you when he wrote it.
"I hope this will please Jones," were his final
words, as he laid down his pen.
Well, of course, you will order the book at once. %
But I must give you one word of warning. When
you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to
suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my
taste, still less on the genius of Kenneth Grahame.
You are merely sitting in judgment on your-
self. . . . You may be worthy ; I do not know.
But it is you who are on trial.
Lunch <c- o -G* > o o
FOOD is a subject of conversation more
spiritually refreshing even than the weather,
for the number of possible remarks about the
weather is limited, whereas of food you can
talk on and on and on. Moreover, no heat of
controversy is induced by mention of the atmo-
spheric conditions (seeing that we are all agreed
as to what is a good day and what is a bad one),
and where there can be no controversy there can
be no intimacy in agreement. But tastes in food
differ so sharply (as has been well said in Latin
and, I believe, also in French) that a pronounced
agreement in them is of all bonds of union the
most intimate. Thus, if a man hates tapioca
pudding he is a good fellow and my friend.
To each his favourite meal. But if I say that
lunch is mine I do not mean that I should like
lunch for breakfast, dinner, and tea; I do not
mean that of the four meals (or five, counting
supper) lunch is the one which I most enjoy at
which I do myself most complete justice. This
is so far from being true that I frequently miss
lunch altogether . . . the exigencies of the
journalistic profession. To-day, for instance,
I shall probably miss it. No; what I mean is
that lunch is the meal which in the abstract
appeals to me most because of its catholicity.
We breakfast and dine at home, or at other
people's homes, but we give ourselves up Jo
London for lunch, and London has provided an
amazing variety for us. We can have six courses
and a bottle of champagne, with a view of the
river, or one poached egg and a box of dominoes,
with a view of the skylights ; we can sit or we can
stand, and without doubt we could, if we wished,
recline in the Roman fashion ; we can spend two
hours or five minutes at it ; we can have some-
thing different every day of the week, or cling
permanently (as I know one man to do) to a chop
and chips and what you do with the chips I have
never discovered, for they combine so little of
nourishment with so much of inconvenience that
Nature can never have meant them for provender.
Perhaps as counters. . . . But I am wandering
from my theme.
There is this of romance about lunch, that one
can imagine great adventures with stockbrokers,
Not That It Matters
actor-managers, publishers, and other demigods
to have had their birth at the luncheon table.
If it is a question of " bulling " margarine or
''bearing" boot-polish, if the name for the
new play is still unsettled, if there is some idea
of an American edition whatever the emergency,
the final word on the subject is always the same,
" Come and have lunch with me, and we'll talk
it over"; and when the waiter has taken your
hat and coat, and you have looked diffidently at
the menu, and in reply to your host's question,
" What will you drink ? " have made the only
possible reply, " Oh, anything that you're drink-
ing " (thus showing him that you don't insist on
a bottle to yourself) then you settle down to
business, and the history of England is enlarged
by who can say how many pages.
And not only does one inaugurate business
matters at lunch, but one also renews old friend-
ships. Who has not had said to him in the Strand,
" Hallo, old fellow, 1 haven't seen you for ages ;
you must come and lunch with me one day " ?
And who has not answered, "Rather! I should
love to," and passed on with a glow at the heart
which has not died out until the next day, when
the incident is forgotten? An invitation to
dinner is formal, to tea unnecessary, to breakfast
impossible, but there is a casualness, very friendly
and pleasant, about invitations to lunch which
make them complete in themselves, and in no
way dependent on any lunch which may or may
Without having exhausted the subject of lunch
in London (and I should like to say that it is now
certain that I shall not have time to partake
to-day), let us consider for a moment lunch in
the country. I do not mean lunch in the open
air, for it is obvious that there is no meal so
heavenly as lunch thus eaten, and in a short article
like this I have no time in which to dwell upon
the obvious. I mean lunch at a country house.
Now, the most pleasant feature of lunch at a
country house is this that you may sit next to
whomsoever you please. At dinner she may be
entrusted to quite the wrong man ; at breakfast
you are faced with the problem of being neither
too early for her nor yet too late for a seat beside
her ; at tea people have a habit of taking your
chair at the moment when a simple act of courtesy
has drawn you from it in search of bread and
butter ; but at lunch you follow her in and there
you are fixed.
But there is a place, neither London nor the
country, which brings out more than any other
place all that is pleasant in lunch. It was really
the recent experience of this which set me
writing about lunch. Lunch in the train ! It
should be the "second meal" about 1.30
because then you are really some distance from
London and are hungry. The panorama flashes
by outside, nearer and nearer comes the beautiful
West ; you cross rivers and hurry by little villages,
you pass slowly and reverently through strange
old towns . . . and, inside, the waiter leaves the
potatoes next to you and slips away.
Well, it is his own risk. Here goes. . . . What
I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must
be a pretty decent sort of fellow.
The Friend of Man o -o *> o
WHEN swords went out of fashion, walking-
sticks, I suppose, came into fashion.
The present custom has its advantages. Even in
his busiest day the hero's sword must have
returned at times to its scabbard, and what would
he do then with nothing in his right hand ? But
our walking-sticks have no scabbards. We grasp
them always, ready at any moment to summon a
cab, to point out a view, or to dig an enemy in
the stomach. Meanwhile we slash the air in
defiance of the world.
My first stick was a malacca, silver at the
collar and polished horn as to the handle. For
weeks it looked beseechingly at me from a shop
window, until a lucky birthday tip sent me in
after it. We went back to school together that
afternoon, and if anything can lighten the cloud
which hangs over the last day of holidays, it is
the glory of some such stick as mine. Of course
it was too beautiful to live long; yet its death
Not That It Matters
became it. I had left many a parental umbrella
in the train unhonoured and unsung. My
malacca was mislaid in an hotel in Norway. And
even now when the blinds are drawn and we pull
up our chairs closer round the wood fire, what
time travellers tell to awestruck stay-at-homes
tales of adventure in distant lands, even now if
by a lucky chance Norway is mentioned, I tap
the logs carelessly with the poker and drawl, " I
suppose you didn't happen to stay at Vossvangen ?
I left a malacca cane there once. Rather a good
one too." So that there is an impression among
my friends that there is hardly a town in Europe
but has had its legacy from me. And this I owe
to my stick.
My last is of ebony, ivory-topped. Even
though I should spend another fortnight abroad
I could not take this stick with me. It is not a
stick for the country ; its heart is in Piccadilly.
Perhaps it might thrive in Paris if it could stand
the sea voyage. But no, I cannot see it crossing
the Channel ; in a cap I am no companion for it.
Could I step on to the boat in a silk hat and then
retire below but I am always unwell below, and
that would not suit its dignity. It stands now in
a corner of my room crying aloud to be taken to
the opera. I used to dislike men who took canes
The Friend of Man
to Covent Garden, but I see now how it must
have been with them. An ebony stick topped
with ivory has to be humoured. Already I am
considering a silk-lined cape, and it is settled
that my gloves are to have black stitchings.
Such is my last stick, for it was given to me
this very morning. At my first sight of it I
thought that it might replace the common one
which I lost in an Easter train. That was silly of
me. I must have a stick of less gentle birth
which is not afraid to be seen with a soft
hat. It must be a stick which I can drop, or
on occasion kick ; one with which I can slash
dandelions ; one for which, when ultimately I
leave it in a train, conscience does not drag me
to Scotland Yard. In short, a companion-
able stick for a day's journey ; a country
The ideal country stick will never be found.
It must be thick enough to stand much rough
usage of a sort which I will explain presently,
and yet it must be thin so that it makes a
pleasant whistling sound through the air. Its
handle must be curved so that it can pull down
the spray of blossom of which you are in need,
or pull up the luncheon basket which you want
even more badly, and yet it must be straight so
Not That It Matters
that you can drive an old golf ball with it. It
must be unadorned, so that it shall lack ostenta-
tion, and yet it must have a band, so that when
you throw stones at it you can count two if you
hit the silver. You begin to see how difficult it
is to achieve the perfect stick.
Well, each one of us must let go those pro-
perties which his own stick can do best without.
For myself I insist on this my stick must be
good for hitting and good to hit with. A stick,
we are agreed, is something to have in the hand
when walking. But there are times when we
sit down ; and if our journey shall have taken
us to the beach, our stick must at once be propped
in the sand while from a suitable distance we
throw stones at it. However beautiful the sea,
its beauty can only be appreciated properly in
this fashion. Scenery must not be taken at a
gulp ; we must absorb it unconsciously. With
the mind gently exercised as to whether we
scored a two on the band or a one just below
it, and with the muscles of the arm at
stretch, we are in a state ideally receptive of
And, for my other essential of a country stick,
it must be possible to grasp it by the wrong end
and hit a ball with it. So it must have no
The Friend ot Man
ferrule, and the handle must be heavy and
straight. In this way was golf born ; its creator
roamed the fields after his picnic lunch, knock-
ing along the cork from his bottle. At first he
took seventy-nine from the gate in one field to
the oak tree in the next ; afterwards fifty-four.
Then suddenly he saw the game. We cannpt
say that he was no lover of Nature. The desire
to knock a ball about, to play silly games with
a stick, comes upon a man most keenly when he
is happy ; let it be ascribed that he is happy to
the streams and the hedges and the sunlight
through the trees. And so let my stick have a
handle heavy and straight, and let there be no
ferrule on the end. Be sure that I have an old
golf ball in my pocket.
In London one is not so particular. Chiefly we
want a stick for leaning on when we are talking
to an acquaintance suddenly met. After the
initial " Hulloa ! " and the discovery that we
have nothing else of importance to say, the
situation is distinctly eased by the remembrance
of our stick. It gives us a support moral and
physical, such as is supplied in a drawing-room
by a cigarette. For this purpose size and shape
are immaterial. Yet this much is essential it
must not be too slippery, or in our nervousness
Not That It Matters
we may drop it altogether. My ebony stick with
the polished ivory top
But I have already decided that my ebony
stick is out of place with the everyday hat. It
stands in its corner waiting for the opera season.
I must get another stick for rough work.
The Diary Habit o *> o *>
A NEWSPAPER has been lamenting the decay
ji\. of the diary-keeping habit, with the natural
result that several correspondents have written to
say that they have kept diaries all their lives.
No doubt all these diaries now contain the entry*
" Wrote to the Daily to deny the assertion
that the diary-keeping habit is on the wane."
Of such little things are diaries made.
I suppose this is the reason why diaries are so
rarely kept nowadays that nothing ever happens
to anybody. A diary would be worth writing up
if it could be written like this :
Monday. "Another exciting day. Shot a
couple of hooligans on my way to business and
was forced to give my card to the police. On
arriving at the office was surprised to find the
building on fire, but was just in time to rescue
the confidential treaty between England and
Switzerland. Had this been discovered by the
public, war would infallibly have resulted. Went
Not That It Matters
out to lunch and saw a runaway elephant in the
Strand. Thought little of it at the time, but
mentioned it to my wife in the evening. She
agreed that it was worth recording."
Tuesday. " Letter from solicitor informing me
that I have come into 1,000,000 through the
will of an Australian gold-digger named Tomkins
On referring to my diary I find that I saved his
life two years ago by plunging into the Serpentine.
This is very gratifying. Was late at the office as
I had to look in at the Palace on the way, in
order to get knighted, but managed to get a
good deal of work done before I was interrupted
by a madman with a razor, who demanded 100.
Shot him after a desperate struggle. Tea at an
ABC, where I met the Duke of . Fell into
the Thames on my way home, but swam ashore
Alas ! we cannot do this. Our diaries are very
prosaic, very dull indeed. They read like this :
Monday. " Felt inclined to stay in bed this
morning and send an excuse to the office, but
was all right after a bath and breakfast. Worked
till 1.30 and had lunch. Afterwards worked till
five, and had my hair cut on the way home.
After dinner read A Man's Passion, by Theodora
Popgood. Rotten. Went to bed at eleven."
The Diary Habit
Tuesday. "Had a letter from Jane. Did
some good work in the morning, and at lunch
met Henry, who asked me to play golf with him
on Saturday. Told him I was playing with Peter,
but said I would like a game with him on the
Saturday after. However, it tumed out he was
playing with William then, so we couldn't fix
anything up. Bought a pair of shoes on my way
home, but think they will be too tight. The
man says, though, that they will stretch."
Wednesday. " Played dominoes at lunch and
If this sort of diary is now falling into decay,
the world is not losing much. But at least it is
a harmless pleasure to some to enter up their day's
doings each evening, and in years to come it may
just possibly be of interest to the diarist to know
that it was on Monday, 27th April, that he
had his hair cut. Again, if in the future any
question arose as to the exact date of Henry's
decease, we should find in this diary proof that
anyhow he was alive as late as Tuesday,
28th April. That might, though it probably
won't, be of great importance. But there is
another sort of diary which can never be of
any importance at all. I make no apology for
giving a third selection of extracts.
Not That It Matters
Monday. " Rose at nine and came down to
find a letter from Mary. How little we know
our true friends ! Beneath the mask of outward
affection there may lurk unknown to us the
serpent's tooth of jealousy. Mary writes that
she can make nothing for my stall at the bazaar
as she has her own stall to provide for. Ate my
breakfast mechanically, my thoughts being far
away. What, after all, is life ? Meditated deeply
on the inner cosmos till lunch-time. Afterwards
I lay down for an hour and composed my mind.
I was angry this morning with Mary. Ah, how
petty ! Shall I never be free from the bonds of
my own nature ? Is the better self within me
never to rise to the sublime heights of selflessness
of which it is capable ? Rose at four and wrote
to Mary, forgiving her. This has been a wonder-
ful day for the spirit."
Yes ; I suspect that a good many diaries record
adventures of the mind and soul for lack of
stirring adventures to the body. If they
cannot say, " Attacked by a lion in Bond Street
to-day," they can at least say, " Attacked by
doubt in St. Paul's Cathedral." Most people will
prefer, in the absence of the lion, to say nothing,
or nothing more important than " Attacked by
the hairdresser with a hard brush " ; but there
The Diary Habit
are others who must get pen to paper somehow,
and who find that only in regard to their emotions
have they anything unique to say.
But, of course, there is ever within the breasts
of all diarists the hope that their diaries may
some day be revealed to the world. They may be
discovered by some future generation, amazed at
the simple doings of the twentieth century, or
their publication may be demanded by the next
generation, eager to know the inner life of the
great man just delad. Best of all, they may be
made public by the writers themselves in their
Yes ; the diarist must always have his eye on a
possible autobiography. " I remember," he will
write in that great work, having forgotten all about
it, " I distinctly remember " and here he will
refer to his diary "meeting X. at lunch one
Sunday and saying to him ..."
What he said will not be of much importance,
but it will show you what a wonderful memory
the distinguished author retains in his old age.
Midsummer Day *> <> *> <>
THERE is magic in the woods on Midsummer
Day so people tell me. Titania conducts
her revels. Let others attend her court ; for
myself I will beg to be excused. I have no heart
for revelling on Midsummer Day. On any other
festival I will be as jocund as you please, but on
the longest day of the year I am overburdened
by the thought that from this moment the
evenings are beginning to draw in. We are on
the way to winter.
It is on Midsummer Day, or thereabouts, that
the cuckoo changes his tune, knowing well that
the best days are over and that in a little while
it will be time for him to fly away. I should like
this to be a learned article on "The Habits of
the Cuckoo," and yet, if it were, I doubt if I
should love him at the end of it. It is best to
know only the one thing of him, that he lays his
eggs in another bird's nest a friendly idea and
beyond that to take him as we find him. And
we find that his only habit which matters is the
delightful one of saying " Cuckoo."
The nightingale is the bird of melancholy, the
thrush sings a disturbing song of the good times
to come, the blackbird whistles a fine, cool note
which goes best with a February morning, and
the skylark trills his way to a heaven far out of
the reach of men ; and what the lesser white-
throat says I have never rightly understood.
But the cuckoo is the bird of present joys ' he
keeps us company on the lawns of summer, he
sings under a summer sun in a wonderful new
world of blue and green. I think only happy
people hear him. He is always about when one
is doing pleasant things. He never sings when
the sun hides behind banks of clouds, or if he
does, it is softly to himself so that he may not
lose the note. Then " Cuckoo ! " he says aloud,
and you may be sure that everything is warm and
But now he is leaving us. Where he goes
I know not, but I think of him vaguely as at
Mozambique, a paradise for all good birds who
like their days long. If geography were properly
taught at schools, I should know where Mozam-
bique was, and what sort of people live there.
But it may be that, with all these cuckoos
Not That It Matters
cuckooing and swallows swallowing from July to
April, the country is so full of immigrants that
there is no room for a stable population. It may
also be, of course, that Mozambique is not the
place I am thinking of; yet it has a birdish
The year is arranged badly. If Mr. Willett
were alive he would do something about it.
Why should the days begin to get shorter at the
moment when summer is fully arrived ? Why
should it be possible for the vicar to say that the
evenings are drawing in, when one is still having
strawberries for tea ? Sometimes I think that if
June were called August, and April June, these
things would be easier to bear. The fact that
in what is now called August we should be telling
each other how wonderfully hot it was for
October would help us to bear the slow approach
of winter. On a Midsummer Day in such a
calendar one would revel gladly, and there would
be no midsummer madness.
Already the oak trees have taken on an
autumn look. I am told that this is due to a
local irruption of caterpillars, and not to the
waning of the summer, but it has a suspicious air.
Probably the caterpillars knew. It seems strange
now to reflect that there was a time when
I liked caterpillars; when I chased them up
suburban streets, and took them home to fondle
them ; when I knew them all by their pretty
names, assisted them to become chrysalises, and
watched over them in that unprotected state
as if I had been their mother. Ah, how dear
were my little charges to me then ! But now I
class them with mosquitoes and blight and
harvesters, the pests of the countryside. Why,
I would let them crawl up my arm in those happy
days of old, and now I cannot even endure to
have them dropping gently into my hair. And
I should not know what to say to a chrysalis.
There are great and good people who know all
about solstices and zeniths, and they can tell you
just why it is that 24th June is so much hotter
and longer than 24th December why it is so in
England, I should say. For I believe (and they
will correct me if I am wrong) that at the
equator the days and nights are always of equal
length. This must make calling almost an im-
possibility, for if one cannot say to one's hostess,
" How quickly the days are lengthening (or
drawing in)," one might as well remain at home.
" How stationary the days are remaining " might
pass on a first visit, but the old inhabitants would
not like it rubbed into them. They feel, I am
Not That It Matters
sure, that however saddening a Midsummer Day
may be, an unchanging year is much more in-
tolerable. One can imagine the superiority of a
resident who lived a couple of miles off the
equator, and took her visitors proudly to the end
of the garden where the seasons were most
mutable. There would be no bearing with her.
In these circumstances I refuse to be depressed.
I console myself with the thought that if 25th
June is the beginning of winter, at least there is a
next summer to which I may look forward. Next
summer anything may happen. I suppose a
scientist would be considerably surprised if the
sun refused to get up one morning, or, having got
up, declined to go to bed again. It would not
surprise me. The amazing thing is that Nature
goes on doing the same things in the same way
year after year ; any sudden little irrelevance on
her part would be quite understandable. When
the wise men tell us so confidently that there will
be an eclipse of the sun in 1921, invisible at
Greenwich, do they have no qualms of doubt as
the day draws near? Do they glance up from
their whitebait at the appointed hour, just in
case it is visible after all? Or if they have
journeyed to Pernambuco, or wherever the best
view is to be obtained, do they wonder whether
. . . perhaps . . . and tell each other the night
before that, of course, they were coming to
Pernambuco anyhow, to see an aunt ?
Perhaps they don't. But for myself I am not
so certain, and I have hopes that, certainly next
year, possibly even this year, the days will go on
lengthening after midsummer is over.
At the Bookstall o o o o
I HAVE often longed to be a grocer. To be
surrounded by so many interesting things
sardines, bottled raspberries, biscuits with sugar
on the top, preserved ginger, hams, brawn under
glass, everything in fact that makes life worth
living ; at one moment to walk up a ladder in
search of nutmeg, at the next to dive under a
counter in pursuit of cinnamon; to serve little
girls with a ha'porth of pear drops and lordly
people like you and me with a pint of cherry gin
is not this to follow the king of trades ? Some
day I shall open a grocer's shop, and you will find
me in my spare evenings aproned behind the
counter. Look out for the currants in the
window as you come in I have an idea for
something artistic in the way of patterns there ;
but, as you love me, do not offer to buy any. We
grocers only put the currants out for show, and
so that we may run our fingers through them
luxuriously when business is slack. I have a good
At the Bookstall
line in shortbreads, madam, if I can find the box,
but no currants this evening, I beg you.
Yes, to be a grocer is to live well ; but, after
all, it is not to see life. A grocer, in as far as it
is possible to a man who sells both scented soap
and pilchards, would become narrow. We do
not come into contact with the outside world
much, save through the medium of potted lobster,
and to sell a man potted lobster is not to have
our fingers on his pulse. Potted lobster does not
define a man. All customers are alike to the
grocer, provided their money is good. I perceive
now that I was over-hasty in deciding to become
a grocer. That is rather for one's old age. While
one is young, and interested in persons rather
than in things, there is only one profession to
follow the profession of bookstall clerk.
To be behind a bookstall is indeed to see life.
The fascination of it struck me suddenly as I
stood in front of a station bookstall last Monday
and wondered who bought the tie-clips. The
answer came to me just as I got into my train
Ask the man behind the bookstall. He would
know. Yes, and he would know who bought all
his papers and books and pamphlets, and to know
this is to know something about the people in the
world. You cannot tell a man by the lobster he
Not That It Matters
eats, but you can tell something about him by
the literature he reads.
For instance, I once occupied a carriage on an
eastern line with, among others, a middle-aged
woman. As soon as we left Liverpool Street she
produced a bag of shrimps, grasped each indi-
vidual in turn firmly by the head and tail, and
ate him. When she had finished, she emptied
the ends out of the window, wiped her hands,
and settled down comfortably to her paper.
What paper ? You'll never guess ; I shall have
to tell you The Morning Post. Now doesn't
that give you the woman ? The shrimps alone,
no ; the paper alone, no ; but the two to-
gether. Conceive the holy joy of the book-
stall clerk as she and her bag of shrimps
yes, he could have told at once they were
shrimps approached and asked for The Morning
The day can never be dull to the bookstall
clerk. I imagine him assigning in his mind the
right paper to each customer. This man will ask
for Golfing wrong, he wants Cage Birds; that
one over there wants The Motor ah, well, The
Auto-Car, that's near enough. Soon he would
begin to know the different types ; he would
learn to distinguish between the patrons of The
At the Bookstall
Dancing Times and of The Vote, The Era and The
Athenaeum. Delightful surprises would overwhelm
him at intervals ; as when a red-letter day in
all the great stations a gentleman in a check
waistcoat makes the double purchase of Homer's
Penny Stories and The Spectator. On those
occasions, and they would be very rare, his faith
in human nature would begin to ooze away, until
all at once he would tell himself excitedly that
the man was obviously an escaped criminal in
disguise, rather overdoing the part. After which
he would hand over The Winning Post and The
Animals' Friend to the pursuing detective in a
sort of holy awe. What a life !
But he has other things than papers to sell.
He knows who buys those little sixpenny books
of funny stories a problem which has often
puzzled us others ; he understands by now the
type of man who wants to read up a few good
jokes to tell them down at old Robinson's, where
he is going for the week-end. Our bookstall
clerk doesn't wait to be asked. As soon as this
gentleman approaches, he whips out the book,
dusts it, and places it before the raconteur. He
recognizes also at a glance the sort of silly ass
who is always losing his indiarubber umbrella
ring. Half-way across the station he can see
Not That It Matters
him, and he hastens to get a new card out in
readiness. (" Or we would let you have seven
for sixpence, sir.") And even when one of those
subtler characters draws near, about whom it is
impossible to say immediately whether they
require a fountain pen with case or the Life and
Letters, reduced to 3s. 6d., of Major-General
Clement Bulger, C.B., even then the man behind
the bookstall is not found wanting. If he is
wrong the first time, he never fails to recover
with his second. " Bulger, sir. One of our
I thought of these things last Monday, and
definitely renounced the idea of becoming a
grocer; and as I wandered round the bookstall,
thinking, I came across a little book, sixpence in
cloth, a shilling in leather, called Proverbs and
Maxims. It contained some thousands of the
best thoughts in all languages, such as have
guided men along the path of truth since
the beginning of the world, from "What ho,
she bumps ! " to " Ich dien/' and more. The
thought occurred to me that an interesting article
might be extracted from it, so I bought the
book. Unfortunately enough I left it in the
train before I had time to master it. I shall
be at the bookstall next Monday and I shall have
At the Bookstall
to buy another copy. That will be all right ;
you shan't miss it.
But I am wondering now what the bookstall
clerk will make of me. A man who keeps on
buying Proverbs and Maxims, Well, as I say,
they see life.
"Who's Who" o o *> o o
I LIKE my novels long. When I had read
three pages of this one I glanced at the end,
and found to my delight that there were two
thousand seven hundred and twenty-five pages
more to come. I returned with a sigh of pleasure
to page 4>. I was just at the place where Leslie
Patrick Abercrombie wins the prize " for laying
out Prestatyn," some local wrestler, presumably,
who had challenged the crowd at a country fair.
After laying him out, Abercrombie returns to his
books and becomes editor of the Town Planning
Review. A wonderfully drawn character.
The plot of this oddly named novel is too com-
plicated to describe at length. It opens with
the conferment of the C.M.G. on Kuli Khan
Abbas in 1903, an incident of which the anony-
mous author might have made a good deal more,
and closes with a brief description of the Rev.
Samuel Marinus Zwemer's home in New York
City; but much has happened in the meanwhile.
Thousands of characters have made their brief
appearance on the stage, and have been hustled
off to make room for others, but so unerringly
are they drawn that we feel that we are in the
presence of living people. Take Colette Willy,
for example, who comes in on page 2656 at a
time when the denouement is clearly at hand.
The author, who is working up to his great scene
the appointment of Dr. Norman Wilsmore to
the International Commission for the Publication
of Annual Tables of Physical and Chemical Con-
stants draws her for us in a few lightning
touches. She is " authoress, actress." She has
written two little books : Dialogue de Bfres and
La Retraite Sentimentale. That is all. But is it
not enough ? Has he not made Colette Willy
live before us? A lesser writer might have
plunged into elaborate details about her tele-
phone number and her permanent address, but,
like the true artist that he is, our author leaves
all those things unsaid. For though he can be
a realist when necessary (as in the case of Wallis
Budge, to which I shall refer directly), he does
not hesitate to trust to the impressionist sketch
when the situation demands it.
Wallis Budge is apparently the hero of the
tale ; at any rate, the author devotes most space
Not That It Matters
to him some hundred and twenty lines or so.
He does not appear until page 341, by which
time we are on familiar terms with some two
or three thousand of the less important characters.
It is typical of the writer that, once he has
described a character to us, has (so to speak) set
him on his feet, he appears to lose interest in
his creation, and it is only rarely that further
reference is made to him. Alfred Budd, for
instance, who became British Vice-Consul of San
Sebastian in 1907, and resides, as the intelligent
reader will have guessed, at the San Sebastian
British Vice-Consulate, obtains the M.V.O. in
1908. Nothing is said, however, of the resultant
effect on his character, nor is any adequate de-
scription given either then or later of the San
Sebastian scenery. On the other hand, Bucy,
who first appears on page 340, turns up again on
page 644 as the Marquess de Bucy, a Grandee
of Spain. I was half-expecting that the body
would be discovered about this time, but the
author is still busy over his protagonists, and
only leaves the Marquess in order to introduce
to us his three musketeers, de Bunsen, de Burgh,
and de Butts.
But it is time that I returned to our hero, Dr.
Wallis Budge. Although Budge is a golfer of
world- wide experience, having "conducted ex-
cavations in Egypt, the Island of Meroe, Nineveh
and Mesopotamia," it is upon his mental rather
than his athletic abilities that the author dwells
most lovingly. The fact that in 1886 he wrote
a pamphlet upon The Coptic History oj Elijah
the Tishbite, and followed it up in 1888 with
one on The Coptic Martyrdom of George of
Cappadocia (which is, of course, in every
drawing-room) may not seem at first to have
much bearing upon the tremendous events which
followed later. But the author is artistically right
in drawing our attention to them ; for it is
probable that, had these popular works not been
written, our hero would never have been en-
couraged to proceed with his Magical Texts of
Za-Walda-Hawdrydt, Tasfd Marydm, Sebhat-Le'ab,
Gabra SheldsS Tezdzu, Aheta-Mtkdel, which had
such a startling effect on the lives of all the
other characters, and led indirectly to the finding,
of the blood-stain on the bath-mat. My own
suspicions fell immediately upon Thomas Rooke,
of whom we are told nothing more than
" R.W.S.," which is obviously the cabbalistic sign
of some secret society.
One of the author's weaknesses is a certain
carelessness in the naming of his characters.
Not That It Matters
For instance, no fewer than two hundred and
forty-one of them are called Smith. True, he
endeavours to distinguish between them by
giving them such different Christian names as
John, Henry, Charles, and so forth, but the
result is bound to be confusing. Sometimes,
indeed, he does not even bother to distinguish
between their Christian names. " Thus we have
three Henry Smiths, who appear to have mixed
themselves up even in the author's mind. He
tells us that Colonel Henry's chief recreation is
"the study of the things around him," but it
sounds much more like that of the Reverend
Henry, whose opportunities in the pulpit would
be considerably greater. It is the same with the
Thomsons, the Williamses and others. When
once he hits upon one of these popular names, he
is carried away for several pages, and insists on
calling everybody Thomson. But occasionally he
has an inspiration. Temistocle Zammit is a good
name, though the humour of calling a famous
musician Zimbalist is perhaps a little too obvious.
In conclusion, one can say that while our
author's merits are many, his faults are of no
great moment. Certainly he handles his love-
scenes badly. Many of his characters are married
but he tells us little of the early scenes of
courtship, and says nothing of any previous
engagements which were afterwards broken off.
Also, he is apparently incapable of describing
a child, unless it is the offspring of titled persons
and will itself succeed to the title; even then
he prefers to dismiss it in a parenthesis. But as
a picture of the present-day Englishman his novel
can hardly be surpassed. He is not a writer
who is only at home with one class. He can
describe the utterly unknown and unimportant
with as much gusto as he describes the genius
or the old nobility. True, he overcrowds his
canvas, but one must recognize this as his
method. It is so that he expresses himself best ;
just as one painter can express himself best in
a rendering of the whole Town Council of
Slappenham, while another only requires a
single haddock on a plate.
His future will be watched with interest. He
hints in his introduction that he has another
volume in preparation, in which he will introduce
to us several entirely new C.B.E.'s, besides carry-
ing on the histories (in the familiar manner of
our modern novelists) of many of those with
whom we have already made friends. Who's
Who, 1920, it is to be called, and I, for one,
shall look out for it with the utmost eagerness.
A Day at Lord's o o <> *>
WHEN one has been without a certain
pleasure for a number of years, one is
accustomed to find on returning to it that it
is not quite so delightful as one had imagined.
In the years of abstinence one had built up too
glowing a picture, and the reality turns out
to be something much more commonplace.
Pleasant, yes ; but, after all, nothing out of
the ordinary. Most of us have made this
discovery for ourselves in the last few months
of peace. We have been doing the things
which we had promised ourselves so often
during the war, and though they have been
jolly enough, they are not quite all that we
dreamed in France and Flanders. As for the
negative pleasures, the pleasure of not saluting
or not attending medical boards, they soon lose
their first freshness.
Yet I have had one pre-war pleasure this week
which carried with it no sort of disappointment.
A Day at Lord's
It was as good as I had thought it would be. I
went to Lord's and watched first-class cricket
There are people who want to "brighten
cricket." They remind me of a certain manager
to whom I once sent a play. He told me, more
politely than truthfully, how much he had enjoyed
reading it, and then pointed out what was wrong
with the construction. " You have two brothers
here," he said. "They oughtn't to have been
brothers, they should have been strangers. Then
one of them marries the heroine. That's wrong ;
the other one ought to have married her. Then
there's Aunt Jane she strikes me as a very
colourless person. If she could have been
arrested in the second act for bigamy
And then I should leave out your third act
altogether, and put the fourth act at Monte
Carlo, and let the heroine be blackmailed by
what's the fellow's name ? See what I mean ? "
I said that I saw. "You don't mind my criti-
cizing your play?" he added carelessly. I said
that he wasn't criticizing my play. He was
writing another one one which I hadn't the least
wish to write myself.
And this is what the brighteners of cricket
are doing. They are inventing a new game, a
Not That It Matters
game which those of us who love cricket have
not the least desire to watch. If anybody says
that he finds Lord's or the Oval boring, I shall
not be at all surprised ; the only thing that
would surprise me would be to hear that he
found it more boring than I find Epsom or
Newmarket. Cricket is not to every body' s_
taste ; nor is racing. But those who like cricket
like it for what it is, and they don't want it
brightened by those who don't like it. Lord
Lonsdale, I am sure, would hate me to brighten
up Newmarket for him.
Lord's as it is, which is as it was five years ago,
is good enough for me. I would not alter any of
it. To hear the pavilion bell ring out again was
to hear the most musical sound in the world.
The best note is given at 11.20 in the morning;
later on it lacks something of its early ecstasy.
When people talk of the score of this or that
opera I smile pityingly to myself. They have
never heard the true music. The clink of ice
against glass gives quite a good note on a
suitable day, but it has not the magic of the
As was my habit on these occasions five years
ago, I bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph on
entering the ground. In the ordinary way I do
A Day at Lord's
not take in this paper, but I have always had a
warm admiration for it, holding it to have qualities
which place it far above any other London journal
of similar price. For the seats at Lord's are un,-
commonly hard, and a Daily Telegraph, folded
twice and placed beneath one, brings something
of the solace which good literature will always
bring. My friends had noticed before the war,
without being able to account for it, that my
views became noticeably more orthodox as the
summer advanced, only to fall away again with
the approach of autumn. I must have been
influenced subconsciously by the leading articles.
It rained, and play was stopped for an hour or
two. Before the war I should have been annoyed
about this, and I should have said bitterly that it
was just my luck. But now I felt that I was
indeed lucky thus to recapture in one day all the
old sensations. It was delightful to herald again
a break in the clouds, and to hear the crowd clap-
ping hopefully as soon as ever the rain had ceased ;
to applaud the umpires, brave fellows, when they
ventured forth at last to inspect the pitch ; to
realize from the sudden activity of the grounds-
men that the decision was a favourable one; to
see the umpires, this time in their white coats,
come out again with the ball and the bails ; and
so to settle down once more to the business of
Perhaps the cricket was slow from the point
of view of the follower of league football, but I
do not feel that this is any condemnation of it.
An essay of Lamb's would be slow to a reader of
William le Queux's works, who wanted a new
body in each chapter. I shall not quarrel with
anyone who holds that a day at Lord's is a dull
day ; if he thinks so, let him take his amusement
elsewhere. But let him not quarrel with me, be-
cause I keep to my opinion, as firmly now as before
the war, that a day at Lord's is a joyous day.
If he will leave me the old Lord's, I will promise
not to brighten his football for him.
By the Sea o o o o o
IT is very pleasant in August to recline in Fleet
Street, or wherever stern business keeps one,
and to think of the sea. I do not envy the
millions at Margate and Blackpool, at Salcombe
and Minehead, for I have persuaded myself that
the sea is not what it was in my day. Then the
pools were always full of starfish; crabs really
big crabs stalked the deserted sands ; and ane-
mones waved their feelers at you from every
Poets have talked of the unchanging sea (and
they may be right as regards the actual water),
but I fancy that the beach must be deteriorating.
In the last ten years I don't suppose I have
seen more than five starfishes, though I have
walked often enough by the margin of the waves
and not only to look for lost golf balls. There
have been occasional belated little crabs whom
I have interrupted as they were scuttling home,
but none of those dangerous monsters to whom
Not That It Matters
in fearful excitement, and as a challenge to one's
companion, one used to offer a forefinger. I
refuse regretfully your explanation that it is my
finger which is bigger; I should like to think
that it were indeed so, and that the boys and
girls of to-day find their crabs and starfishes in
the size and quantity to which I was accustomed.
But I am afraid we cannot hide it from ourselves
that the supply is giving out. It is in fact
obvious that one cannot keep on taking starfishes
home and hanging them up in the hall as baro-
meters without detriment to the coming race.
We had another amusement as children, in
which I suppose the modern child is no longer
able to indulge. We used to wait until the tide
was just beginning to go down, and then start to
climb round the foot of the cliffs from one sandy
bay to another. The waves lapped the cliffs, a
single false step would" have plunged us into
the sea, and we had all the excitement of being
caught by the tide without any of the danger.
We had the further excitement, if we were
lucky, of seeing frantic people waving to us
from the top of the cliff, people of inconceivable
ignorance, who thought that the tide was coming
up and that we were in desperate peril. But it
was a very special day when that happened.
By the Sea
I have done a little serious climbing since
those days, but not any which was more enjoy-
able. The sea was never more than a foot below
us and never more than two feet deep, but the
shock of falling into it would have been mo-
mentarily as great as that of falling down a
precipice. You had therefore the two joys of
climbing the physical pleasure of the accom-
plished effort, and the glorious mental reaction
when your heart returns from the middle of your
throat to its normal place in your chest. And
you had the additional advantages that you
couldn't get killed, and that, if an insuperable
difficulty presented itself, you were not driven
back, but merely waited five minutes for the tide
to lower itself and disclose a fresh foothold.
But, as I say, these are not joys for the modern
child. The tide, I dare say, is not what it was
it does not, perhaps, go down so certainly. Or
the cliffs are of a different and of an inferior
shape. Or people are no longer so ignorant as
to mistake the nature of your position. One
way or another I expect I do better in Fleet
Street. I shall stay and imagine myself by the
sea ; I shall not disappoint myself with the
But I imagine myself away from bands and
Not That It Matters
piers ; for a band by a moonlit sea calls you to
be very grown-up, and the beach and the crabs
such as are left call you to be a child ; and
between the two you can very easily be miserable.
I can see myself with a spade and bucket being
extraordinarily happy. The other day I met a
lucky little boy who had a pile of sand in his
garden to play with, and I was fortunate enough
to get an order for a tunnel. The tunnel which
I constructed for him was a good one, but not so
good that I couldn't see myself building a better
one with practice. I came away with an ambition
for architecture. If ever I go to the sea again
I shall build a proper tunnel ; and afterwards
well, we shall see. At the moment I feel in
tremendous form. I feel that I could do a
There is one joy of childhood, however, which
one can never recapture, and that is the joy of
getting wet in the sea. There is a statue not
so far from Fleet Street of the man who intro-
duced Sunday schools into England, but the man
whom boys and girls would really like to com-
memorate in lasting stone is the doctor who first
said that salt water couldn't give you a cold.
Whether this was true or not I do not know, but
it was a splendid and never-failing retort to
By the Sea
anxious grown-ups, and added much to the joys
of the seaside. But it is a joy no longer possible
to one who is his own master. I, for instance,
can get my feet wet in fresh water if I like ; to
get them wet in salt water is no special privilege.
Feeling as I do, writing as I have written, it
is sad for me to know that if I really went to the
sea this August it would not be with a spade and
a bucket but with a bag of golf clubs ; that even
my evenings would be spent, not on the beach,
but on a bicycle riding to the nearest town for a
paper. Yet it is useless for you to say that I do
not love the sea with my old love, that I am no
longer pleased with the old childish things. I
shall maintain that it is the sea which is not
what it was, and that I am very happy in Fleet
Street thinking of it as it used to be.
Golden Fruit o o o o o
OF the fruits of the year I give my vote to
the orange. In the first place it is a
perennial if not in actual fact, at least in the
greengrocer's shop. On the days when dessert
is a name given to a handful of chocolates
and a little preserved ginger, when macedoine de
fruits is the title bestowed on two prunes and
a piece of rhubarb, then the orange, however
sour, comes nobly to the rescue ; and on those
other days of plenty when cherries and straw-
berries and raspberries and gooseberries riot
together upon the table, the orange, sweeter than
ever, is still there to hold its own. Bread and
butter, beef and mutton, eggs and bacon, are not
more necessary to an ordered existence than
It is well that the commonest fruit should
be also the best. Of the virtues of the orange
I have not room fully to speak. It has pro-
perties of health-giving, as that it cures influenza
and establishes the complexion. It is clean, for
whoever handles it on its way to your table but
handles its outer covering, its top coat, which is
left in the hall. It is round, and forms an
excellent substitute with the young for a cricket
ball. The pips can be flicked at your enemies,
and quite a small piece of peel makes a slide for
an old gentleman.
But all this would count nothing had not
the orange such delightful qualities of taste. I
dare not let myself go upon this subject. I am
a slave to its sweetness. I grudge every marriage
in that it means a fresh supply of orange blossom,
the promise of so much golden fruit cut short.
However, the world must go on.
Next to the orange I place the cherry. The
cherry is a companionable fruit. You can eat
it while you are reading or talking, and you can
go on and on, absent-mindedly as it were, though
you must mind not to swallow the stone. The
trouble of disengaging this from the fruit is just
sufficient to make the fruit taste sweeter for the
labour. The stalk keeps you from soiling your
fingers; it enables you also to play bob cherry.
Lastly, it is by means of cherries that one pene-
trates the great mysteries of life when and
whom you will marry, and whether she really
Not That It Matters
loves you or is taking you for your worldly
prospects. (I may add here that I know a girl
who can tie a knot in the stalk of a cherry with
her tongue. It is a tricky business, and I am
doubtful whether to add it to the virtues of the
cherry or not.)
There are only two ways of eating straw-
berries. One is neat in the strawberry bed, and
the other is mashed on the plate. The first
method generally requires us to take up a bent
position under a net in a hot sun very uncom-
fortable, and at any time fatal to the hair. The
second method takes us into the privacy of the
home, for it demands a dressing-gown and no
spectators. For these reasons I think the straw-
berry an overrated fruit. Yet I must say that
I like to see one floating in cider cup. It gives
a note of richness to the affair, and excuses any
shortcomings in the lunch itself.
Raspberries are a good fruit gone wrong. A
raspberry by itself might indeed be the best fruit
of all ; but it is almost impossible to find it
alone. I do not refer to its attachment to the
red currant ; rather to the attachment to it of so
many of our dumb little friends. The instinct
of the lower creatures for the best is well shown
in the case of the raspberry. If it is to be eaten
it must be picked by the hand, well shaken, and
When you engage a gardener the first thing to
do is to come to a clear understanding with him
about the peaches. The best way of settling
the matter is to give him the carrots and the
black currants and the rhubarb for himself, to
allow him a free hand with the groundsel and
the walnut trees, and to insist in return for this
that you should pick the peaches when and how
you like. If he is a gentleman he will consent.
Supposing that some satisfactory arrangement
were come to, and supposing also that you had
a silver-bladed pocket-knife with which you
could peel them in the open air, then peaches
would come very high in the list of fruits. But
the conditions are difficult.
Gooseberries burst at the wrong end and
smother you ; melons as the nigger boy dis-
covered make your ears sticky ; currants, when
you have removed the skin and extracted the
seeds, are unsatisfying; blackberries have the
faults of raspberries without their virtues ; plums
are never ripe. Yet all these fruits are excellent
in their season. Their faults are faults which we
can forgive during a slight acquaintance, which
indeed seem but pleasant little idiosyncrasies
Not That It Matters
in the stranger. But we could not live with
Yet with the orange we do live year in and
year out. That speaks well for the orange. The
fact is that there is an honesty about the orange
which appeals to all of us. If it is going to be
bad for even the best of us are bad sometimes
it begins to be bad from the outside, not from
the inside. How many a pear which presents a
blooming face to the world is rotten at the core.
How many an innocent-looking apple is harbour-
ing a worm in the bud. But the orange has no
secret faults. Its outside is a mirror of its inside,
and if you are quick you can tell the shopman so
before he slips it into the bag.
Signs of Character *> o o o
WELLINGTON is said to have chosen his
officers by their noses and chins. The
standard for them in noses must have been rather
high, to judge by the portraits of the Duke, but
no doubt he made allowances. Anyhow, by
this method he got the men he wanted. Some
people, however, may think that he would have
done better to have let the mouth be the decid-
ing test. The lines of one's nose are more or
less arranged for one at birth. A baby, born
with a snub nose, would feel it hard that the
decision that he would be no use to Wellington
should be come to so early. And even if he
arrived in the world with a Roman nose, he
might smash it up in childhood, and with it his
chances of military fame. This, I think you will
agree with me, would be unfair.
Now the mouth is much more likely to be a
true index of character. A man may clench his
teeth firmly or smile disdainfully or sneer, or do
Not That It Matters
a hundred things which will be reflected in his
mouth rather than in his nose or chin. It is
through the mouth and eyes that all emotions are
expressed, and in the mouth and eyes therefore
that one would expect the marks of such emo-
tions to be left. I did read once of a man whose
nose quivered with rage, but it is not usual ; I
never heard of anyone whose chin did anything.
It would be absurd to expect it to.
But there arises now the objection that a man
may conceal his mouth, and by that his character,
with a moustache. There arises, too, the objec-
tion that a person whom you thought was a fool,
because he always went about with his mouth
open, may only have had a bad cold in the head.
In fact the difficulties of telling anyone's char-
acter by his face seem more insuperable every
moment. How, then) are we to tell whether we
may safely trust a man with our daughter, or
our favourite golf club, or whatever we hold
most dear ?
Fortunately a benefactor has stepped in at the
right moment with an article on the cigar-manner.
Our gentleman has made the discovery that you
can tell a man's nature by the way he handles
his cigar, and he gives a dozen illustrations to
explain his theory. True, this leaves out of
Signs of Character
account the men who don't smoke cigars ; al-
though, of course, you might sum them all up,
with a certain amount of justification, as foolish.
But you do get, I am assured, a very important
index to the characters of smokers which is as
much as to say of the people who really count.
I am not going to reveal all the clues to you
now ; partly because I might be infringing the
copyright of another, partly because I have for-
gotten them. But the idea roughly is that if
a man holds his cigar between his finger and
thumb, he is courageous and kind to animals (or
whatever it may be), and if he holds it between
his first and second fingers he is impulsive but
yet considerate to old ladies, and if he holds it
upside down he is (besides being an ass) jealous
and self-assertive, and if he sticks a knife into
the stump so as to smoke it to the very end he
is yes, you have guessed this one he is mean.
You see what a useful thing a cigar may be.
I think now I am sorry that this theory has
been given to the world. Yes; I blame myself
for giving it further publicity. In the old days
when we bought or better, had presented to
us a cigar, a doubt as to whether it was a good
one was all that troubled us. We bit one end
and lit the other, and, the doubt having been
Not That It Matters
solved, proceeded tranquilly to enjoy ourselves.
But all this will be changed now. We shall be
horribly self-conscious. When we take our cigars
from our mouths we shall feel our neighbours'
eyes rooted upon our hands, the while we try to
remember which of all the possible manipulations
is the one which represents virtue at its highest
power. Speaking for myself, I hold my cigar in
a dozen different ways during an evening (though
never, of course, on the end of a knife), and I
tremble to think of the diabolically composite
nature which the modern Wellingtons of the
table must attribute to me. In future I see that
I must concentrate on one method. If only I
could remember the one which shows me at my
But the tobacco test is not the only one. We
may be told by the way we close our hands ; the
tilt of a walking-stick may unmask us. It is
useless to model ourselves now on the strong,
silent man of the novel whose face is a shutter
to hide his emotions. This is a pity ; yes, I am
convinced now that it is a pity. If my secret
fault is cheque-forging I do not want it to be
revealed to the world by the angle of my hat ;
still less do I wish to discover it in a friend
whom I like or whom I can beat at billiards.
Signs of Character
How dull the world would be if we knew
every acquaintance inside out as soon as we had
offered him our cigar-case. Suppose I put an
extreme case to you suppose a pleasant young
bachelor who admired our bowling showed him-
self by his shoe laces to be a secret wife-beater.
What could we do ? Cut so unique a friend ?
Ah no. Let us pray to remain in ignorance of
the faults of those we like. Let us pray it as
sincerely as we pray that they shall remain in
ignorance of ours.
Intellectual Snobbery <&> o o *>
A GOOD many years ago I had a painful
experience. I was discovered by my
house-master reading in bed at the unauthorized
hour of midnight. Smith minor in the next bed
(we shared a candle) was also reading. We were
both discovered. But the most annoying part of
the business, as it seemed to me then, was that
Smith minor was discovered reading Alton Locke,
and that I was discovered reading Marooned Among
Cannibals. If only our house-master had come in
the night before ! Then he would have found me
reading Alton Locke. Just for a moment it occurred
to me to tell him this, but after a little reflection
I decided that it would be unwise. He might
have misunderstood the bearings of the revelation.
There is hardly one of us who is proof against
this sort of intellectual snobbery. A detective
story may have been a very good friend to us, but
we don't want to drag it into the conversation ; we
prefer a casual reference to The Egoist, with which
we have perhaps only a bowing acquaintance ; a
reference which leaves the impression that we are
inseparable companions, or at any rate inseparable
until such day when we gather from our betters
that there are heights even beyond The Egoist.
Dead or alive, we would sooner be found with
a copy of Marcus Aurelius than with a copy of
Marie Corelli. I used to know a man who carried
always with him a Russian novel in the original ;
not because he read Russian, but because a day
might come when, as the result of some accident,
the " pockets of the deceased " would be exposed
in the public Press. As he said, you never know ;
but the only accident which happened to him was
to be stranded for twelve hours one August at a
wayside station in the Highlands. After this he
maintained that the Russians were overrated.
I should like to pretend that I myself have
grown out of these snobbish ways by this time,
but I am doubtful if it would be true. It
happened to me not so long ago to be travelling
in company of which I was very much ashamed ;
and to be ashamed of one's company is to be
a snob. At this period I was trying to amuse
myself (and, if it might be so, other people) by
writing a burlesque story in the manner of an
imaginary collaboration by Sir Hall Caine and
Not That It Matters
Mrs. Florence Barclay. In order to do this I had
to study the works of these famous authors, and
for many week-ends in succession I might have
been seen travelling to, or returning from, the
country with a couple of their books under my
arm. To keep one book beneath the arm is
comparatively easy ; to keep two is much more
difficult. Many was the time, while waiting for
my train to come in, that one of those books
slipped from me. Indeed, there is hardly a
junction in the railway system of the southern
counties at which I have not dropped on some
Saturday or other a Caine or a Barclay ; to have
it restored to me a moment later by a courteous
fellow-passenger courteous, but with a smile of
gentle pity in his eye as he glimpsed the author's
name. " Thanks very much," I would stammer,
blushing guiltily, and perhaps I would babble
about a sick friend to whom I was taking them,
or that I was running out of paper-weights. But
he never believed me. He knew that he would
have said something like that himself.
Nothing is easier than to assume that other
people share one's weaknesses. No doubt Jack
the Ripper excused himself on the ground that it
was human nature ; possibly, indeed, he wrote an
essay like this, in which he speculated mildly as.
to the reasons which made stabbing so attractive
to us all. So I realize thab I may be doing you
an injustice in suggesting that you who read may
also have your little snobberies. But I confess
that I should like to cross-examine you. If in
conversation with you, on the subject (let us say)
of heredity, a subject to which you had devoted
a good deal of study, I took it for granted that
you had read Ommany's Approximations, would
you make it quite clear to me that you had not
read it ? Or would you let me carry on the
discussion on the assumption that you knew it
well; would you, even, in answer to a direct
question, say shamefacedly that though you had
not er actually read it, you er knew about
it, of course, and had er read extracts from it ?
Somehow I think that I could lead you on to
this ; perhaps even make you say that you had
actually ordered it from your library, before I told
you the horrid truth that Ommany's Approxima-
tions was an invention of my own.
It is absurd that we (I say " we," for I include
you now) should behave like this, for there is no
book over which we need be ashamed, either to
have read it or not to have read it. Let us,
therefore, be frank. In order to remove the
unfortunate impression of myself which I have
Not That It Matters
given you, I will confess that I have only read
three of Scott's novels, and begun, but never
finished, two of Henry James'. I will also confess
and here I am by way of restoring that un-
fortunate impression that I do quite well in
Scottish and Jacobean circles on those five books.
For, if a question arises as to which is Scott's
masterpiece, it is easy for me to suggest one of
my three, with the air of one who has chosen it,
not over two others, but over twenty. Perhaps
one of my three is the acknowledged master-
piece ; I do not know. If it is, then, of course,
all is well. But if it is not, then I must appear
rather a clever fellow for having rejected the
obvious. With regard to Henry James, my
position is not quite so secure; but at least I
have good reason for feeling that the two novels
which I was unable to finish cannot be his best,
and with a little tact I can appear to be defend-
ing this opinion hotly against some imaginary
authority who has declared in favour of them.
One might have read the collected works of both
authors, yet make less of an impression.
Indeed, sometimes I feel that I have read their
collected works, and Ommany's Approximations,
and many other books with which you would be
only too glad to assume familiarity. For in giving
others the impression that I am on terms with
these masterpieces, I have but handed on an
impression which has gradually formed itself in
my own mind. So I take no advantage of them ;
and if it appears afterwards that we have been
deceived together, I shall be at least as surprised
and indignant about it as they.
A Question of Form o o o ^>
THE latest invention on the market is the
wasp gun. In theory it is something like
a letter clip ; you pull the trigger and the upper
and ower plates snap together with a suddenness
which would surprise any insect in between.
The trouble will be to get him in the right place
before firing. But I can see that a lot of fun can
be got out of a wasp drive. We shall stand on
the edge of the marmalade while the beaters go
through it, and, given sufficient guns, there will
not be many insects to escape. A loader to
clean the weapon at regular intervals will be
Yet I am afraid that society will look down
upon the wasp gun. Anything useful and handy
is always barred by the best people. I can
imagine a bounder being described as " the sort
of person who uses a wasp gun instead of a tea-
spoon." As we all know, a hat-guard is the mark
of a very low fellow. I suppose the idea is that
A Question of Form
you and I, being so dashed rich, do not much
mind if our straw hat does blow off into the
Serpentine ; it is only the poor wretch of a clerk,
unable to afford a new one every day, who must
take precautions against losing his first. Yet
how neat, how useful, is the hat-guard. With
what pride its inventor must have given birth to
it. Probably he expected a statue at the corner
of Cromwell Road, fitting reward for a public
benefactor. He did not understand that, since
his invention was useful, it was probably bad
Consider, again, the Richard or "dicky."
Could there be anything neater or more dressy,
anything more thoroughly useful ? Yet you and
I scorn to wear one. I remember a terrible
situation in a story by Mr. W. S. Jackson. The
hero found himself in a foreign hotel without his
luggage. To that hotel came, with her father, the
girl whom he adored silently. An invitation was
given him to dinner with them, and he had to
borrow what clothes he could from friendly
waiters. These, alas! included a dicky. Well,
the dinner began well ; our hero made an
excellent impression; all was gaiety. Suddenly
a candle was overturned and the flame caught
the heroine's frock. The hero knew what the
Not That It Matters
emergency demanded. He knew how heroes
always whipped off their coats and wrapped
them round burning heroines. He jumped up
like a bullet (or whatever jumps up quickest) and
He had a dicky on! Without his coat, he
would discover the dicky to the one person of all
from whom he wished to hide it. Yet if he kept
his coat on, she might die. A truly horrible
dilemma. I forget which horn he impaled him-
self upon, but I expect you and I would have kept
the secret of the Richard at all costs. And what
really is wrong with a false shirt-front ? Nothing
except that it betrays the poverty of the wearer.
Laundry bills don't worry us, bless you, who have
a new straw hat every day ; but how terrible if it
was suspected that they did.
Our gentlemanly objection to the made-up tie
seems to rest on a different foundation ; I am
doubtful as to the psychology of that. Of course
it is a deception, but a deception is only serious
when it passes itself off as something which really
matters. Nobody thinks that a self-tied tie
matters ; nobody is really proud of being able to
make a cravat out of a length of silk. I suppose
it is simply the fact that a made-up tie saves time
which condemns it ; the safety razor was nearly
A Question of Form
condemned for a like reason. We of the leisured
classes can spend hours over our toilet; by all
means let us despise those who cannot.
As far as dress goes, a man only knows the
things which a man mustn't do. It would be
interesting if women would tell us what no real
lady ever does. I have heard a woman classified
contemptuously as one who does her hair up with
two hair-pins, and no doubt bad feminine form
can be observed in other shocking directions.
But again it seems to be that the semblance of
poverty, whether of means or of leisure, is the one
thing which must be avoided.
Why, then, should the wasp gun be considered
bad form? I don't know, but I have an in-
stinctive feeling that it will be. Perhaps a wasp
gun indicates a lack of silver spoons suitable for
lethal uses. Perhaps it shows too careful a con-
sideration of the marmalade. A man of money
drowns his wasp in the jar with his spoon, and
carelessly calls for another pot to be opened.
The poor man waits on the outskirts with his
gun, and the marmalade, void of corpses, can still
be passed round. Your gun proclaims your
poverty; then let it be avoided.
All the same I think I shall have one. I have
kept clear of hat-guards and Richards and made-
Not That It Matters
up ties without quite knowing why, but honestly
I have not felt the loss of them. The wasp gun
is different ; having seen it, I feel that I should be
miserable without it. It is going to be excellent
sport, wasp-shooting ; a steady hand, a good eye,
and a certain amount of courage will be called for.
When the season opens I shall be there, good
form or bad form. We shall shoot the apple-
quince coverts first. " Hornet over ! "
A Slice of Fiction o o o o
THIS is a jolly world, and delightful things
go on in it. For instance, I had a picture
post card only yesterday from William Benson,
who is staying at Ilfracombe. He wrote to say
that he had gone down to Ilfracombe for a short
holiday, and had been much struck by the beauty
of the place. On one of his walks he happened
to notice that there was to be a sale of several
plots of land occupying a quite unique position
in front of the sea. He had immediately thought
of me in connection with it. My readiness to con-
sider a good investment had long been known to
him, and in addition he had heard rumours that
I might be coming down to Ilfracombe in order
to recruit my health. If so, here was a chance
which should be brought to my knowledge.
Further particulars . . . and so on. Which was
extremely friendly of William Benson. In fact,
my only complaint of William is that he has his
letters lithographed a nasty habit in a friend.
Not That It Matters
But I have allowed myself to be carried away.
It was not really of Mr. Benson that I was think-
ing when I said that delightful things go on in
this world, but of a certain pair of lovers, the
tragedy of whose story has been revealed to me
in a two-line " agony " in a morning paper. When
anything particularly attractive happens in real
life, we express our appreciation by saying that it
is the sort of thing which one reads about in books
perhaps the highest compliment we can pay to
Nature. Well, the story underlying this advertise-
ment reeks of the feuilleton and the stage.
" PAT, I was alone when you called. You heard
me talking to the dog. Please make appointment.
You will agree with me when you read this
that it is almost too good to be true. There is a
freshness and a naivete about it which is only to
be found in American melodrama. Let us re-
construct the situation, and we shall see at once
how delightfully true to fiction real life can be.
Pat was in love with Daisy engaged to her
we may say with confidence (for a reason which
will appear in a moment). But even though she
had plighted her troth to him, he was jealous,
miserably jealous, of every male being who
A Slice of Fiction
approached her. One day last week he called
on her at the house in Netting Hill. The parlour-
maid opened the door and smiled brightly at him.
"Miss Daisy is upstairs in the drawing-room,"
she said. " Thank you," he replied, " I will
announce myself." (Now you see how we know
that they were engaged. He must have an-
nounced himself in order to have reached the
situation implied in the " agony," and he would
not have been allowed to do so if he had not had
the standing of a fiance.)
For a moment before knocking Patrick stood
outside the drawing-room door, and in that
moment the tragedy occurred ; he heard his lady's
voice. "Darling/" it said, "she shall kiss her
sweetest, ownest, little pupsy-wupsy."
Patrick's brow grew black. His strong jaw
clenched (just like the jaws of those people on
the stage), and he staggered back from the door.
" This is the end," he muttered. Then he strode
down the stairs and out into the stifling streets.
And up in the drawing-room of the house in
Notting Hill Daisy and the toy pom sat and
wondered why their lord and master was so late.
Now we come to the letter which Patrick wrote
to Daisy, telling her that it was all over. He
would explain to her how he had " accidentally "
Not That It Matters
(he would dwell upon that) accidentally overheard
her and her (probably he was rather coarse
here) exchanging terms of endearment ; he would
accuse her of betraying one whose only fault was
that he loved her not wisely but too well ; he
would announce gloomily that he had lost his
faith in women. All this is certain. But it would
appear also that he made some such threat as
this most likely in a postscript : " It is no good
your writing. There can be no explanation.
Your letters will be destroyed unopened." It is
a question, however, if even this would have pre-
vented Daisy from trying an appeal by post, for
though one may talk about destroying letters un-
opened, it is an extremely difficult thing to do. I
feel, therefore, that Patrick's letter almost certainly
contained a P.P.S. also to this effect : " I cannot
remain in London where we have spent so many
happy hours together. I am probably leaving
for the Rocky Mountains to-night. Letters will
not be forwarded. Do not attempt to follow me."
And so Daisy was left with only the one means
of communication and explanation the agony
columns of the morning newspapers. " I was
alone when you called. You heard me talking
to the dog. Please make appointment." In the
last sentence there is just a hint of irony which
A Slice of Fiction
I find very attractive. It seems to me to say,
" Don't for heaven's sake come rushing back to
Notting Hill (all love and remorse) without
warning, or you might hear me talking to the cat
or the canary. Make an appointment, and I'll
take care that there's nothing in the room when
you come." We may tell ourselves, I think, that
Daisy understands her Patrick. In fact, I am
beginning to understand Patrick myself, and I
see now that the real reason why Daisy chose
the agony column as the medium of communica-
tion was that she knew Patrick would prefer it.
Patrick is distinctly the sort of man who likes
agony columns. I am sure it was the first thing
he turned to on Wednesday morning.
It occurs to me to wonder if the honeymoon
will be spent at Ilfracombe. Patrick must have
received William Benson's picture post card too.
We have all had one. Just fancy if he had gone
to the Rocky Mountains; almost certainly Mr.
Benson's letters would not have been forwarded.
The Label o o o o o
ON those rare occasions when I put on my
best clothes and venture into society, I
am always astonished at the number of people
in it whom I do not know. I have stood in a
crowded ball-room, or sat in a crowded restaurant,
and reflected that, of all the hundreds of souls
present, there was not one of whose existence I
had previously had any suspicion. Yet they all
live tremendously important lives, lives not only
important to themselves but to numbers of friends
and relations ; every day they cross some sort of
Rubicon ; and to each one of them there comes a
time when the whole of the rest of the world
(including confound it ! me) seems absolutely
of no account whatever. That I had lived all
these years in contented ignorance of their
existence makes me a little ashamed.
To-day in my oldest clothes I have wandered
through the index of The Times Literary Supple-
ment, and I am now feeling a little ashamed of
my ignorance of so many books. Of novels alone
there seem to be about 900. To write even a
thoroughly futile novel is, to my thinking, a
work of extraordinary endurance; yet in, say,
600 houses this work has been going on, and I
(and you, and all of us) have remained utterly
unmoved. Well, I have been making up for my
indifference this morning. I have been reading
the titles of the books. That is not so good (or
bad) as reading the books themselves, but it
enables me to say that I have heard of such and
such a novel, and in some cases it does give me a
slight clue to what goes on inside.
I should imagine that the best part of writing
a novel was the choosing a title. My idea of a
title is that it should be something which reflects
the spirit of your work and gives the hesitating
purchaser some indication of what he is asked
to buy. To call your book Ethnan Frome or
Esther Grant or John Temple or John Merri-
dew (I quote from the index) is to help the
reader not at all. All it tells him is that one
of the characters inside will be called John or
Esther a matter, probably, of indifference to
him. Phyllis is a better title, because it does
give a suggestion of the nature of the book. No
novel with a tragic ending, no powerful realistic
Not That It Matters
novel, would be called Phyllis, Without
having read Phyllis I should say that it was a
charming story of suburban life, told mostly in
dialogue, and that Phyllis herself was a perfect
dear though a little cruel about that first box of
chocolates he sent her. However, she married
him in the end all right.
But if you don't call your book Phyllis or
John Temple or Mrs. Elmsley, what 1 hear
you asking are you to call it? Well, you
might call it Kapak, as I see somebody has
done. The beauty of Kapak as a title is that
if you come into the shop by the back entrance,
and so approach the book from the wrong end, it
is still Kapak. A title which looks the same
from either end is of immense advantage to an
author. Besides, in this particular case there is
a mystery about Kapak which one is burning
to solve. Is it the bride's pet name for her
father-in-law, the password into the magic castle,
or that new stuff with which you polish brown
boots ? Or is it only a camera ? Let us buy the
book at once and find out.
Another mystery title is The Man nnth
Thicker Beard, which probably means some-
thing. It is like Kapak in this, that it reads
equally well backwards ; but it is not so subtle.
Still, we should probably be lured on to buy it.
On the other hand, A Welsh Nightingale and a
Would-be Suffragette is just the sort of book
to which we would not be tempted by the title.
It is bad enough to have to say to the shopman,
" Have you A Welsh Nightingale and a Would-be
Suffragette?" but if we forgot the title, as we
probably should, and had to ask at random for a
would-be nightingale and a Welsh suffragette,
or a wood nightingale and a Welsh rabbit, or
the Welsh suffragette's night in gaol, we should
soon begin to wish that we had decided on some
quite simple book such as Greed, Earth, or
And this is why a French title is always such
a mistake. Authors must remember that their
readers have not only to order the book, in many
cases, verbally, but also to recommend it to their
friends. So I think Mr. Oliver Onions made a
mistake when he called his collection of short
stories Pot au Feu. It is a good title, but it is
the sort of title to which the person to whom
you are recommending the book always answers,
"What?" And when people say "What?" in
reply to your best Parisian accent, the only
thing possible for you is to change the subject
Not That It Matters
But it is quite time that we came to some sort
of decision as to what makes the perfect title.
Kapok will attract buyers, as I have said,
though to some it may not seem quite fair.
Excellent from a commercial point of view,
it does not satisfy the conditions we laid
down at first. The title, we agreed, must
reflect the spirit of the book. In one sense
Five Gallons of Gasolene does this, but of
course nobody could ask for that in a book-
Well, then, here is a perfect title, Their High
Adventure. That explains itself just sufficiently.
When a Man's Married, For Henri and Navarre,
and The King Over the Water are a little more
obvious, but they are still good. The Love
Story of a Mormon makes no attempt to
deceive the purchaser, but it can hardly be
called a beautiful title. Melody in Silver, on
the other hand, is beautiful, but for this reason
makes one afraid to buy it, lest there should be
disappointment within. In fact, as I look down
the index, I am beginning to feel glad that
there are so .many hundreds of novels which
I haven't read. In most of them there would
be disappointment. And really one only
reads books nowadays so as to be able to
say to one's neighbour on one's rare appear-
ances in society, "Have you read The Forged
Coupon, and what do you think of The Muck
Rake ? " And for this an index is quite
The Profession o o o o o
I HAVE been reading a little book called How
to Write for the Press. Other books which
have been published upon the same subject are
How to Be an Author, How to Write a Play, How
to Succeed as a Journalist, How to Write for the
Magazines, and How to Earn 600 a Year with
the Pen. Of these the last-named has, I think,
the most pleasing title. Anybody can write a
play ; the trouble is to get it produced. Almost
anybody can be an author; the business is to
collect money and fame from this state of
being. Writing for the magazines, again,
sounds a delightful occupation, but literally it
means nothing without the co-operation of the
editors of the magazines, and it is this co-opera-
tion which is so difficult to secure. But to earn
600 a year with the pen is to do a definite
thing; if the book could really tell the secret
of that, it would have an enormous sale.
I have not read it, so I cannot say what the
secret is. Perhaps it was only a handbook on
How to Write for the Press disappointed me.
It is concerned not with the literary journalist
(as I believe he is called) but with the reporter
(as he is never called, the proper title being
"special representative"). It gives in tabular
form a list of the facts you should ascertain at
the different functions you attend ; with this
book in your pocket there would be no excuse
if you neglected to find out at a wedding the
names of the bride and bridegroom. It also
gives and I think this is very friendly of it a
list of useful synonyms for the principal sub-
jects, animate and inanimate, of description.
The danger of calling the protagonists at the
court of Hymen (this one is not from the book ;
I thought of it myself just now) the danger of
calling them " the happy pair " more than once
in a column is that your readers begin to sus-
pect that you are a person of extremely limited
mind, and when once they get this idea into
their heads they are not in a proper state to
appreciate the rest of your article. But if in
your second paragraph you speak of " the joyful
couple," and in your third of "the ecstatic
brace," you give an impression of careless
Not That It Matters
mastery of the language which can never be
Among the many interesting chapters is one
dealing with contested elections. One of the
questions to which the special representative
was advised to find an answer was this : " What
outside bodies are taking active part in the
contest ? " In the bad old days now happily
gone for ever the outside bodies of dead cats
used to take an active and important part in the
contest, and as the same body would often be
used twice the reporter in search of statistics
was placed in a position of great responsibility.
Nowadays, I suppose, he is only meant to con-
cern himself with such bodies as the Coal Con-
sumers' League and the Tariff Reform League,
and there would be no doubt in the mind of
anybody as to whether they were there or not.
I am afraid I should not be a success as " our
special representative." I should never think of
half the things which occur to the good reporter.
You read in your local paper a sentence like
this : " The bride's brother, who only arrived
last week from Australia, where he held an
important post under the Government, and is
about to proceed on a tour through Canada
with curiously enough a nephew of the bride-
groom, gave her away." Well, what a mass
of information has to be gleaned before that
sentence can be written. Or this. "The hall
was packed to suffocation, and beneath the glare
of the electric light specially installed for this
occasion by Messrs. Ampere & Son of Pumpton,
the building being at ordinary times strikingly
deficient in the matter of artificial lighting in
spite of the efforts of the more progressive
members of the town council the faces of not a
few of the fairer sex could be observed." You
know, I am afraid I should have forgotten all
that. I should simply have obtained a copy of
the principal speech, and prefaced it with the
words, " Mr. Dodberry then spoke as follows " ;
or, if my conscience would not allow of such
a palpable misstatement, " Mr. Dodberry then
rose with the intention of speaking as follows."
In the more human art of interviewing I
should be equally at fault. The interview itself
would be satisfactory, but I am afraid that its
publication would lead people to believe that
all the best things had been said by me. To
remember what anybody else has said is easy ;
to remember, even five minutes after, what one
has said oneself is almost impossible. For to
recall your remarks in our argument at the
Not That It Matters
club last night is simply a matter of memory ; to
recall mine, I have to forget all that I meant to
have said, all that I ought to have said, and all
that I have thought upon the subject since.
In fact, I begin to see that the successful
reporter must eliminate his personality alto-
gether, whereas the successful literary journalist
depends for his success entirely upon his person-
ality which is what is meant by "style." I
suppose it is for this reason that, when the literary
journalist is sent as " our extra-special representa-
tive " to report a prize fight or a final cup tie or
a political meeting, the result is always appalling.
The "ego" bulges out of every line, obviously con-
scious that it is showing us no ordinary reporting,
determined that it will not be overshadowed by the
importance of the subject. And those who are
more interested in the matter than in the manner
regard him as an intruder, and the others regret
that he is so greatly overtaxing his strength.
So each to his business, and his handbook to
each How to Write for the Press to the special
representative, and How to Be an Author to the
author. There is no book, I believe, called
How to Be a Solicitor, or a doctor or an admiral
or a brewer. That is a different matter alto-
gether ; but any fool can write for the papers.
Smoking as a Fine Art o o *>
MY first Introduction to Lady Nicotine was
at the innocent age of eight, when, finding
a small piece of somebody else's tobacco lying
unclaimed on the ground, I decided to experi-
ment with it. Numerous desert island stories
had told me that the pangs of hunger could be
allayed by chewing tobacco ; it was thus that
the hero staved off death before discovering the
bread-fruit tree. Every right-minded boy of
eight hopes to be shipwrecked one day, and it
was proper that I should find out for myself
whether my authorities could be trusted in this
matter. So I chewed tobacco. In the sense
that I certainly did not desire food for some
time afterwards, my experience justified the
authorities, but I felt at the time that it was
not so much for staving off death as for reconcil-
ing oneself to it that tobacco-chewing was to be
recommended. I have never practised it since.
At eighteen I went to Cambridge, and bought
Not That It Matters
two pipes in a case. In those days Greek was
compulsory, but not more so than two pipes in
a case. One of the pipes had an amber stem
and the other a vulcanite stem, and both of them
had silver belts. That also was compulsory.
Having bought them, one was free to smoke
cigarettes. However, at the end of my first
year I got to work seriously on a shilling briar,
and I have smoked that, or something like it,
In the last four years there has grown up a
new school of pipe-smokers, by which (I suspect)
I am hardly regarded as a pipe-smoker at all.
This school buys its pipes always at one particular
shop ; its pupils would as soon think of smoking
a pipe without the white spot as of smoking brown
paper. So far are they from smoking brown paper
that each one of them has his tobacco specially
blended according to the colour of his hair, his
taste in revues, and the locality in which he lives.
The first blend is naturally not the ideal one.
It is only when he has been a confirmed smoker
for at least three months, and knows the best
and worst of all tobaccos, that his exact require-
ments can be satisfied.
However, it is the pipe rather than the
tobacco which marks him as belonging to this
Smoking as a Fine Art
particular school. He pins his faith, not so
much to its labour-saving devices as to the
white spot outside, the white spot of an other-
wise aimless life. This tells the world that it
is one of the pipes. Never was an announce-
ment more superfluous. From the moment,
shortly after breakfast, when he strikes his
first match to the moment, just before bed-
time, when he strikes his hundredth, it is
obviously the pipe which he is smoking.
For whereas men of an older school, like
myself, smoke for the pleasure of smoking, men
of this school smoke for the pleasure of pipe-
owning of selecting which of their many white-
spotted pipes they will fill with their specially-
blended tobacco, of filling the one so chosen,
of lighting it, of taking it from the mouth to
gaze lovingly at the white spot and thus let-
ting it go out, of lighting it again and letting it
go out again, of polishing it up with their own
special polisher and putting it to bed, and then
the pleasure of beginning all over again with
another white-spotted one. They are not so
much pipe-smokers as pipe-keepers ; and to
have spoken as I did just now of their owning
pipes was wrong, for it is they who are in
bondage to the white spot.
Not That It Matters
This school is founded firmly on four years
of war. When at the age of eighteen you are
suddenly given a cheque-book and called " Sir,"
you must do something by way of acknowledg-
ment. A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that
there has been no mistake you are undoubtedly
a man. But you may be excused for feeling after
the first pipe that the joys of smoking have been
rated too high, and for trying to extract your^
pleasure from the polish on the pipe's surface,
the pride of possessing a special mixture of your
own, and such-like matters, rather than from the
actual inspiration and expiration of smoke. In
the same way a man not fond of reading may
find delight in a library of well-bound books.
They are pleasant to handle, pleasant to talk
about, pleasant to show to friends. But it is the
man without the library of well-bound books who
generally does most of the reading.
So I feel that it is we of the older school who
do most of the smoking. We smoke uncon-
sciously while we are doing other things ; they
try, but not very successfully, to do other things
while they are consciously smoking. No doubt
they despise us, and tell themselves that we are
not real smokers, but I fancy that they feel a
little uneasy sometimes. For my young friends
Smoking as a Fine Art
are always trying to persuade me to join their
school, to become one of the white-spotted ones.
I have no desire to be of their company, but I
am prepared to make a suggestion to the founder
of the school. It is that he should invent a pipe,
white spot and all, which smokes itself. His
pupils could hang it in the mouth as picturesquely
as before, but the incidental bother of keeping
it alight would no longer trouble them.
The Path to Glory o *> o o
MY friend Mr. Sidney Mandragon is getting
on. He is now one of the great ones
of the earth. He has just been referred to
as "Among those present was Mr. Sidney
As everybody knows (or will know when they
have read this article) the four stages along the
road to literary fame are marked by the four
different manners in which the traveller's presence
at a public function is recorded in the Press. At
the first stage the reporter glances at the list of
guests, and says to himself, " Mr. George Meredith
never heard of him/' and for all the world
knows next morning, Mr. George Meredith might
just as well have stayed at home. At the second
stage (some years later) the reporter murmurs to
his neighbour in a puzzled sort of way : " George
Meredith ? George Meredith ? Now where have
I come across that name lately ? Wasn't he the
man who pushed a wheelbarrow across America ?
The Path to Glory
Or was he the chap who gave evidence in that
murder trial last week ? " And, feeling that in
either case his readers will be interested in the
fellow, he says : " The guests included . . . Mr.
George Meredith and many others." At the
third stage the reporter knows at last who Mr.
George Meredith is. Having seen an advertise-
ment of one of his books, and being pretty sure
that the public has read none of them, he refers
to him as " Mr. George Meredith, the well-known
novelist." The fourth and final stage, beyond
the reach of all but the favoured few, is arrived
at when the reporter can leave the name to his
public unticketed, and says again, " Among those
present was Mr. George Meredith."
The third stage is easy to reach indeed, too
easy. The " well -known actresses" are not
Ellen Terry, Irene Vanbrugh and Marie Tempest,
but Miss Birdie Vavasour, who has discovered a
new way of darkening the hair, and Miss Girlie
de Tracy, who has been arrested for shop-lifting.
In the same way, the more the Press insists that
a writer is " well-known," the less hope will he
have that the public has heard of him. Better
far to remain at the second stage, and to flatter
oneself that one has really arrived at the fourth.
But my friend Sidney Mandragon is, indeed, at
Not That It Matters
the final stage now, for he had been "the
well-known writer" for at least a dozen years
previously. Of course, he has been helped by
his name. Shakespeare may say what he likes,
but a good name goes a long way in the writing
profession. It was my business at one time to
consider contributions for a certain paper, and
there was one particular contributor whose work
I approached with an awe begotten solely of
his name. It was not exactly Milton, and not
exactly Carlyle, and not exactly Charles Lamb,
but it was a sort of mixture of all three and of
many other famous names thrown in, so that,
without having seen any of his work printed
elsewhere, I felt that I could not take the risk
of refusing it myself. "This is a good man," I
would say before beginning his article; "this
man obviously has style. And I shouldn't be
surprised to hear that he was an authority on
fishing." I wish I could remember his name
now, and then you would see for yourself.
Well, take Mr. Hugh Walpole (if he will allow
me). It is safe to say that, when Mr. Walpole's
first book came out, the average reader felt
vaguely that she had heard of him before. She
hadn't actually read his famous Letters, but
she had often wanted to, and or was that his
The Path to Glory
uncle? Anyway, she had often heard people
talking about him. What a very talented family
it was ! In the same way Sidney Mandragon has
had the great assistance of one of the two
Christian names which carry weight in journalism.
The other, of course, is Harold. If you are
Sidney or Harold, the literary world is before you.
Another hall-mark by which we can tell
whether a man has arrived or not is provided by
the interview. If (say) a Lepidopterist is just
beginning his career, nobody bothers about his
opinions on anything. If he is moderately well-
known in his profession, the papers will seek his
help whenever his own particular subject comes
up in the day's news. There is a suggestion,
perhaps, in Parliament that butterflies should be
muzzled, and " Our Representative " promptly
calls upon "the well-known Lepidopterist" to
ask what he thinks about it. But if he be of
an established reputation, then his professional
opinion is no longer sought. What the world is
eager for now is to be told his views on Sunday
Games, the Decadence of the Theatre or Bands
in the Parks.
The modern advertising provides a new scale of
values. No doubt Mr. Pelman offers his celebrated
hundred guineas' fee equally to all his victims,
Not That It Matters
but we may be pretty sure that in his business-
like brain he has each one of them nicely labelled,
a Gallant Soldier being good for so much new
business, a titled Man of Letters being good for
slightly less ; and that real Fame is best measured
by the number of times that one's unbiased views
on Pelmanism (or Tonics or Hair-Restorers) are
considered to be worth reprinting. In this matter
my friend Mandragon is doing nicely. For a
suitable fee he is prepared to attribute his success
to anything in reason, and his confession of faith
can count upon a place in every full-page
advertisement of the mixture, and frequently in
the odd half-columns. I never quite understand
why a tonic which has tightened up Mandragon's
fibres, or a Mind-Training System which has
brought General Blank's intellect to its present
pitch, should be accepted more greedily by the
man-in-the-street than a remedy which has only
proved its value in the case of his undistinguished
neighbour, but then I can never understand quite
a number of things. However, that doesn't
matter. All that matters at the moment is that
Mr. Sidney Mandragon has now achieved glory.
Probably the papers have already pigeon-holed
his obituary notice. It is a pleasing thought.
A Problem in Ethics o o o
LIFE is full of little problems, which arise
suddenly and find one wholly unprepared
with a solution. For instance, you travel down
to Wimbledon on the District Railway first-class,
let us suppose, because it is your birthday. On
your arrival you find that you have lost your
ticket. Now, doubtless there is some sort of
recognized business to be gone through which
relieves you of the necessity of paying again.
You produce an affidavit of a terribly affirmative
nature, together with your card and a testimonial
from a beneficed member of the Church of
England. Or you conduct a genial correspond-
ence with the traffic manager which spreads
itself over six months. To save yourself this
bother you simply tell the collector that you
haven't a ticket and have come from Charing
Cross. Is it necessary to add " first-class " ?
Of course one has a strong feeling that one
ought to, but I think a still stronger feeling
Not That It Matters
that one isn't defrauding the railway company
if one doesn't. (I will try not to get so many
" ones " into my next sentence.) For you may
argue fairly that you established your right to
travel first-class when you stepped into the
carriage with your ticket and, it may be, had
it examined therein by an inspector. All that
you want to do now is to establish your right
to leave the Wimbledon platform for the purer
air of the common. And you can do this per-
fectly easily with a third-class ticket.
However, this is a problem which will only
arise if you are careless with your property.
But however careful you are, it may happen to
you at any moment that you become suddenly
the owner of a shilling with a hole in it.
I am such an owner. I entered into possession
a week ago Heaven knows who played the
thing off on me. As soon as I made the discovery
I went into a tobacconist's and bought a box of
"This," he said, looking at me reproachfully,
" is a shilling with a hole in it."
" I know," I said, " but it's all right, thanks.
I don't want to wear it any longer. The fact
is, Joanna has thrown me However, I
needn't go into that."
A Problem in Ethics
He passed it back to me.
" I am afraid I can't take it," he said.
" Why not ? / managed to."
However, I had to give him one without a
hole before he would let me out of his shop.
Next time I was more thoughtful. I handed
three to the cashier at my restaurant in payment
of lunch, and the ventilated one was in the
middle. He saw the joke of it just as I was
escaping down the stairs.
" Hi ! " he said, " this shilling has a hole in it."
I went back and looked at it. Sure enough
" Well, that's funny," I said. " Did you drop
it, or what ? "
He handed the keepsake back to me. He
also had something of reproach in his eye.
" Thanks, very much," I said. " I wouldn't
have lost it for worlds ; Emily But I
mustn't bore you with the story. Good day
to you." And I gave him a more solid coin
Well, that's how we are at present. A more
unscrupulous person than myself would have
palmed it off long ago. He would have told
himself with hateful casuistry that the coin was
none the worse for the air-hole in it, and that,
Not That It Matters
if everybody who came into possession of it
pressed it on to the next man, nobody would be
injured by its circulation. But I cannot argue
like this. It pleases me to give my shilling a
run with the others sometimes. I like to put it
down on a counter with one or two more, pre-
ferably in the middle of them where the draught
cannot blow through it ; but I should indeed
be surprised I mean sorry if it did not come
back to me at once.
There is one thing, anyhow, that I will not do.
1 will not give it to a waiter or a taxi-driver
or to anybody else as a tip. If you estimate
the market value of a shilling with a hole in it
at anything from ninepence to fourpence accord-
ing to the owner's chances of getting rid of it,
then it might be considered possibly a handsome,
anyhow an adequate, tip for a driver ; but
somehow the idea does not appeal to me at all.
For if the recipient did not see the hole, you
would feel that you had been unnecessarily
generous to him, and that one last effort to have
got it off on to a shopkeeper would have been
wiser ; while if he did see it well, we know
what cabmen are. He couldn't legally object,
it is a voluntary gift on your part, and even
regarded as a contribution to his watch chain
A Problem in Ethics
worthy of thanks, but Well, I don't like it.
I don't think it's sportsmanlike.
However, I have an idea at last. I know
a small boy who owns some lead soldiers. I
propose to borrow one of these a corporal or
perhaps a serjeant and boil him down, and then
fill up the hole in the shilling with lead.
Shillings, you know, are not solid silver ; oh no,
they have alloy in them. This one will have a
little more than usual perhaps. One cannot tie
oneself down to an ounce or two.
We set out, I believe, to discuss the morals of
the question. It is a most interesting subject.
The Happiest Half-Hours of Life o
^V YESTERDAY I should have gone back to
X school, had I been a hundred years younger.
My most frequent dream nowadays or nowa-
nights I suppose I should say is that I am back
at school, and trying to construe difficult passages
from Greek authors unknown to me. That they
are unknown is my own fault, as will be pointed
out to me sternly in a moment. Meanwhile I
stand up and gaze blankly at the text, wondering
how it is that I can have forgotten to prepare it.
" Er him the er him the the er many-wiled
Odysseus h'r'm then, him addressing, the
many-wiled Odysseus er addressed. Er er
the er " And then, sweet relief, I wake
up. That is one of my dreams ; and another is
that I am trying to collect my books for the
next school and that an algebra, or whatever
you like, is missing. The bell has rung, as
it seems hours ago, I am searching my shelves
desperately, I am diving under my table, behind
The Happiest Half-Hours of Life
the chair ... I shall be late, I shall be late,
fete, late . . .
No doubt I had these bad moments in real life a
hundred years ago. Indeed I must have had them
pretty often that they should come back to me so
regularly now. But it is curious that I should
never dream that I am going back to school, for
the misery of going back must have left a deeper
mark on my mind than all the little accidental
troubles of life when there. I was very happy at
school ; but oh ! the utter wretchedness of the
last day of the holidays.
One began to be apprehensive on the Monday.
Foolish visitors would say sometimes on the Mon-
day, " When are you going back to school ? " and
make one long to kick them for their tactlessness.
As well might they have said to a condemned
criminal, " When are you going to be hanged ? "
or, " What kind of er knot do you think
they'll use ? " Throughout Monday and Tuesday
we played the usual games, amused ourselves in
the usual way, but with heavy hearts. In the
excitement of the moment we would forget and
be happy, and then suddenly would come the
thought, " We're going back on Wednesday."
And on Tuesday evening we would bring a
moment's comfort to ourselves by imagining that
Not That It Matters
we were not going back on the morrow. Our
favourite dream was that the school was burnt
down early on Wednesday morning, and that a
telegram arrived at breakfast apologizing for the
occurrence, and pointing out that it would be
several months before even temporary accom-
modation could be erected. No Vandal destroyed
historic buildings so light-heartedly as we. And
on Tuesday night we prayed that, if the light-
nings of Heaven failed us, at least a pestilence
should be sent in aid. Somehow, somehow, let
the school be uninhabitable !
But the telegram never came. We woke on
Wednesday morning as wakes the murderer on
his last day. We took a dog or two for a walk ;
we pretended to play a game of croquet. After
lunch we donned the badges of our servitude.
The comfortable, careless, dirty flannels were
taken off, and the black coats and stiff white
collars put on. At 3.30 an early tea was ready
for us something rather special, a last mockery
of holiday. (Dressed crab, I remember, on one
occasion, and I travelled with my back to the
engine after it a position I have never dared to
assume since.) Then good-byes, tips, kisses, a
last look, and the 4.10 was puffing out of the
station. And nothing, nothing had happened.
The Happiest Half-Hours of Life
I can remember thinking in the train how
unfair it all was. Fifty-two weeks in the year,
I said to myself, and only fifteen of them spent
at home. A child snatched from his mother at
nine, and never again given back to her for more
than two months at a time. " Is this Russia ? "
I said ; and, getting no answer, could only comfort
myself with the thought, "This day twelve
weeks ! "
And once the incredible did happen. It was
through no intervention of Providence ; no, it
was entirely our own doing. We got near some
measles, and for a fortnight we were kept in
quarantine. I can say truthfully that we never
spent a duller two weeks. There seemed to be
nothing to do at all. The idea that we were
working had to be fostered by our remaining
shut up in one room most of the day, and within
the limits of that room we found very little in the
way of amusement. We were bored extremely.
And always we carried with us the thought of
Smith or Robinson taking our place in the Junior
House team and making hundreds of runs. . . .
Because, of course, we were very happy at
school really. The trouble was that we were so
much happier in the holidays. I have had many
glorious moments since I left school, but I have
Not That It Matters
no doubt as to what have been the happiest
half-hours in my life. They were the half-hours
on the last day of term before we started home.
We spent them on a lunch of our own ordering.
It was the first decent meal we had had for weeks,
and when it was over there were all the holidays
before us. Life may have better half-hours than
that to offer, but I have not met them.
Natural Science o o *& <>
IT is when Parliament is not sitting that the
papers are most interesting to read. I have
found an item of news to-day which would never
have been given publicity in the busy times, and
it has moved me strangely. Here it is, backed
by the authority of Dr. Chalmers Mitchell :
" The caterpillar of the puss-moth, not satisfied
with Nature's provisions for its safety, makes faces
at young birds, and is said to alarm them con-
I like that " is said to." Probably the young
bird would deny indignantly that he was alarmed,
and would explain that he was only going away
because he suddenly remembered that he had an
engagement on the croquet lawn, or that he had
forgotten his umbrella. But whether he alarms
them or not, the fact remains that the caterpillar
of the puss-moth does make faces at young birds ;
and we may be pretty sure that, even if he began
the practice in self-defence, the habit is one that
Not That It Matters
has grown on him. Indeed, I can see him
actually looking out for a thrush's nest, and then
climbing up to it, popping his head over the edge
suddenly and making a face. Probably, too, the
mother birds frighten their young ones by telling
them that, if they aren't good, the puss-moth
caterpillar will be after them ; while the poor
caterpillar himself, never having known a
mother's care, has had no one to tell him that
if he goes on making such awful faces he will
be struck like that one day.
These delvings into natural history bring back
my youth very vividly. I never kept a puss-
moth, but I had a goat-moth which ate its way
out of a match-box, and as far as I remember
took all the matches with it. There were cater-
pillars, though, of a gentler nature who stayed
with me, and of these some were obliging
enough to turn into chrysalises. Not all by any
means. A caterpillar is too modest to care about
changing in public. To conduct his metamor-
phosis in some quiet corner where he is not
poked every morning to see if he is getting stiffer
is what your caterpillar really wants. Mine
had no private life to mention. They were as
much before the world as royalty or an actress.
And even those who brought off the first event
safely never emerged into the butterfly world-
Something would always happen to them. " Have
you seen my chrysalis?" we used to ask each
other. " I left him in the bathroom yesterday."
But what I kept most successfully were minerals.
One is or is not a successful mineralogist according
as one is or is not allowed a geological hammer.
I had a geological hammer. To scour the cliffs
armed with a geological hammer and a bag for
specimens is to be a king among boys. The only
specimen I can remember taking with my hammer
was a small piece of shin. That was enough,
however, to end my career as a successful minera-
logist. As an unsuccessful one I persevered for
some months, and eventually had a collection of
eighteen units. They were put out on the bed
every evening in order of size, and ranged from a
large lump of Iceland spar down to a small dead
periwinkle. In those days I could have told you
what granite was made of. In those days I had
over my bed a map of the geological strata of
the district in different colours like a chocolate
macaroon. And in those days I knew my way
to the Geological Museum.
As a botanist I never really shone, but two of
us joined an open-air course and used to be taken
expeditions into Kew Gardens and such places,
Not That It Matters
where our lecturer explained to his pupils all
grown-up save ourselves the less recondite
mysteries. There was one golden Saturday when
we missed the rendezvous at Pinner and had a
picnic by ourselves instead ; and, after that, many
other golden Saturdays when some unaccountable
accident separated us from the party. I re-
member particularly a day in Highgate Woods
a good place for losing a botanical lecturer in ; if
you had been there, you would have seen two little
boys very content, lying one each side of a large
stone slab, racing caterpillars against each other.
But there was one episode in my career as a
natural scientist a career whose least details are
brought back by the magic word, caterpillar
over which I still go hot with the sense of failure.
This was an attempt to stuff a toad. I don't
know to this day if toads can be stuffed, but when
our toad died he had to be commemorated in some
way, and, failing a marble statue, it seemed
good to stuff him. It was when we had got the
skin off him that we began to realize our diffi-
culties. I don't know if you have had the skin
of a fair-sized toad in your hand ; if so, you will
understand that our first feeling was one of sur-
prise that a whole toad could ever have got into
it. There seemed to be no shape about the thing
at all. You could have carried it no doubt we
did, I have forgotten in the back of a watch.
But it had lost all likeness to a toad, and it was
obvious that stuffing meant nothing to it.
Of course, little boys ought not to skin toads
and carry geological hammers and deceive learned
professors of botany ; I know it is wrong. And
of course caterpillars of the puss-moth variety
oughtn't to make faces at timid young thrushes.
But it is just these things which make such
pleasant memories afterwards when professors
and toads are departed, when the hammers lie
rusty in the coal cellar, and when the young
thrushes are grown up to be quite big birds.
On Going Dry o o o o o
THERE are fortunate mortals who can always
comfort themselves with a clich6. If any
question arises as to the moral value of Racing,
whether in war-time or in peace-time, they will
murmur something about "improving the breed
of horses," and sleep afterwards with an easy
conscience. To one who considers how many
millions of people are engaged upon this im-
portant work, it is surprising that nothing more
notable in the way of a super-horse has as yet
emerged ; one would have expected at least by
this time something which combined the flying-
powers of the hawk with the diving-powers of
the seal. No doubt this is what the followers of
the Colonel's Late Wire are aiming at, and even
if they have to borrow ten shillings from the till
in the good cause, they feel that possibly by
means of that very ten shillings Nature has
approximated a little more closely to the desired
animal. Supporters of Hunting, again, will tell
On Going Dry
you, speaking from inside knowledge, that "the
fox likes it," and one is left breathless at the
thought of the altruism of the human race, which
will devote so much time and money to amusing
a small, bushy-tailed four-legged friend who
might otherwise be bored. And the third
member of the Triple Alliance, which has made
England what it is, is Beer, and in support of
Beer there is also a cliche ready. Talk to anybody
about Intemperance, and he will tell you solemnly,
as if this disposed of the trouble, that " one can
just as easily be intemperate in other matters as
in the matter of alcohol." After which, it seems
almost a duty to a broad-minded man to go out
and get drunk.
It is, of course, true that we can be intemperate
in eating as well as in drinking, but the results
of the intemperance would appear to be different.
After a fifth help of rice-pudding one does not
become over-familiar with strangers, nor does an
extra slice of ham inspire a man to beat his wife.
After five pints of beer (or fifteen, or fifty) a man
will "go anywhere in reason, but he won't go
home " ; after five helps of rice-pudding, I
imagine, home would seem to him the one-
desired haven. The two intemperances may be
equally blameworthy, but they are not equally
Not That It Matters
offensive to the community. Yet for some reason
over-eating is considered the mark of the beast,
and over-drinking the mark of rather a fine
The poets and other gentlemen who have
written so much romantic nonsense about " good
red wine " and " good brown ale " are responsible
for this. I admit that a glass of Burgundy is a more
beautiful thing than a blancmange, but I do not
think that it follows that a surfeit of one is more
heroic than a surfeit of the other. There may
be a divinity in the grape which excuses excess,
but if so, one would expect it to be there even
before the grape had been trodden on by some-
body else. Yet no poet ever hymned the man
who tucked into the dessert, or told him that he
was by way of becoming a jolly good fellow. He
is only by way of becoming a pig.
" It is the true, the blushful Hippocrene." To
tell oneself this is to pardon everything. How-
ever unpleasant a drunken man may seem at first
sight, as soon as one realizes that he has merely
been putting away a blushful Hippocrene, one
ceases to be angry with him. If Keats or some-
body had said of a piece of underdone mutton,
" It is the true, the blushful Canterbury," in-
digestion would carry a more romantic air, and
On Going Dry
at the third helping one could claim to be a bit
of a devil. " The beaded bubbles winking at the
brim " this might also have been sung of a
tapioca-pudding, in which case a couple of tapioca-
puddings would certainly qualify the recipient as
one of the boys. If only the poets had praised
over-eating rather than over-drinking, how much
pleasanter the streets would be on festival nights !
I suppose that I have already said enough to
have written myself down a Temperance Fanatic,
a Thin-Blooded Cocoa-Drinker, and a number of
other things equally contemptible ; which is all
very embarrassing to a man who is composing at
the moment on port, and who gets entangled in
the skin of cocoa whenever he tries to approach
it. But if anything could make me take kindly
to cocoa, it would be the sentimental rubbish
which is written about the "manliness" of
drinking alcohol. It is no more manly to drink
beer (not even if you call it good brown ale) than
it is to drink beef-tea. It may be more healthy ;
I know nothing about that, nor, from the diversity
of opinion expressed, do the doctors ; it may be
cheaper, more thirst-quenching, anything you like.
But it is a thing the village idiot can do and
often does, without becoming thereby the spiritual
comrade of Robin Hood, King Harry the Fifth,
Not That It Matters
Drake, and all the other heroes who (if we are
to believe the Swill School) have made old
England great on beer.
But to doubt the spiritual virtues of alcohol is
not to be a Prohibitionist. For my own sake I
want neither England nor America dry. Whether
I want them dry for the sake of England and
America I cannot quite decide. But if I ever do
come to a decision, it will not be influenced by
that other cliche, which is often trotted out com-
placently, as if it were something to thank Heaven
for: "You can't make people moral by Act of
Parliament." It is not a question of making
them moral, but of keeping them from alcohol.
It may be a pity to do this, but it is obviously
possible, just as it is possible to keep them that
is to say, the overwhelming majority of them
from opium. Nor shall I be influenced by the
argument that such prohibition is outside the
authority of a Government. For if a Government
can demand a man's life for reasons of foreign
policy, it can surely demand his whisky for
reasons of domestic policy; if it can call upon
him to start fighting, it can call upon him to stop
But if opium and alcohol is prohibited, you say,
why not tobacco ? When tobacco is mentioned,
On Going Dry
I feel like the village Socialist, who was quite
ready to share two theoretical cows with his
neighbour, but when asked if the theory applied
also to pigs, answered indignantly, "What are
you talking about I've got two pigs ! " I could
bear an England which "went dry," but an
England which "went out" ! So before
assenting to the right of a Government to rob
the working-man of his beer, I have to ask myself
if I assent to its right to rob me of my pipe.
Well, if it were agreed by a majority of the
community (in spite of all my hymns to Nicotine)
that England would be happier without tobacco,
then I think I should agree also. But I might
feel that I should be happier without England
Just a little way without the Isle of Man, say.
A Misjudged Game -o o **> o
( *HESS has this in common with making
\s poetry, that the desire for it comes upon the
amateur in gusts. It is very easy for him not
to make poetry; sometimes he may go for
months without writing a line of it. But
when once he is delivered of an ode, then the
desire to write another ode is strong upon him.
A sudden passion for rhyme masters him, and
must work itself out. It will be all right in a
few weeks ; he will go back to prose or bills-
of-parcels or whatever is his natural method of
expressing himself, none the worse for his ad-
venture. But he will have gained this know-
ledge for his future guidance that poems never
Every two or three years I discover the game
of chess. In normal times when a man says to
me, " Do you play chess ? " I answer coldly,
"Well, I know the moves." "Would you like
a game ? " he asks, and I say, " I don't think I
A Misjudged Game
will, thanks very much. I hardly ever play."
And there the business ends. But once in two
years, or it may be three, circumstances are
too strong for me. I meet a man so keen or
a situation so dull that politeness or boredom
leads me to accept. The board is produced,
I remind myself that the queen stands on a
square of her own colour, and that the knight
goes next to the castle ; I push forward the
king's pawn two squares, and we are off. Yes,
we are off; but not for one game only. For
a month at least I shall dream of chess at night
and make excuses to play it in the day. For a
month chess will be even more to me than golf
or billiards games which I adore because I am
so bad at them. For a month, starting from
yesterday when I was inveigled into a game,
you must regard me, please, as a chess maniac.
Among small boys with no head for the game
I should probably be described as a clever player.
If my opponent only learnt yesterday, and is still
a little doubtful as to what a knight can do, I
know one or two rather good tricks for re-
moving his queen. My subtlest stroke is to wait
until Her Majesty is in front of the king, and
then to place my castle in front of her, with a
pawn in support. Sometimes I forget the pawn
Not That It Matters
and he takes my castle, in which case I try to
look as if the loss of my castle was the one
necessary preliminary to my plan of campaign,
and that now we were off. When he is busy on
one side of the board, I work a knight up on the
other, and threaten two of his pieces simul-
taneously. To the extreme novice I must seem
But then I am an old hand at the game.
My career dates from well, years ago when I
won my house championship at school. This
championship may have carried a belt with it;
I have forgotten. But there was certainly a
prize a prize of five solid shillings, supposing
the treasurer had managed to collect the sub-
scriptions. In the year when I won it I was
also treasurer. I assure you that the quickness
and skill necessary for -winning the competition
were as nothing to that necessary for collecting
the money. If any pride remains to me over
that affair, if my name is written in letters of
fire in the annals of our house chess club, it is
because I actually obtained the five shillings.
After this the game did not trouble me for
some time. But there came a day when a
friend and I lunched at a restaurant in which
chess-boards formed as permanent a part of
A Misjudged Game
the furniture of the dining tables as the salt
and mustard. Partly in joke, because it seemed
to be the etiquette of the building, we started
a game. We stayed there two hours . . . and
the fever remained with me for two months.
Another year or so of normal development
followed. Then I caught influenza and spent
dull days in bed. Nothing can be worse for
an influenza victim than chess, but I suppose
my warders did not realize how much I suffered
under the game. Anyhow, I played it all day
and dreamed of it all night a riot of games in
which all the people I knew moved diagonally
and up and down, took each other, and became
And now I have played again, and am once
more an enthusiast. You will agree with me,
will you not, that it is a splendid game?
People mock at it. They say that it is not
such good exercise as cricket or golf. How
wrong they are. That it brings the same
muscles into play as does cricket I do not
claim for it. Each game develops a different
set t>f sinews; but what chess-player who has
sat with an extended forefinger on the head of
his queen for five minutes, before observing the
enemy's bishop in the distance and bringing
Not That It Matters
back his piece to safety what chess-player, I
say, will deny that the muscles of the hand ridge
up like lumps of iron after a month at the best
of games ? What chess-player who has stretched
his arm out in order to open with the Ruy Lopez
gambit, who has then withdrawn it as the possi-
bilities of the Don Quixote occur to him, and
who has finally, after another forward and
backward movement, decided to rely upon the
bishop's declined pawn what chess-player, I
ask, will not affirm that the biceps are elevated
by this noblest of pastimes ? And, finally, what
chess-player, who in making too eagerly the
crowning move, has upset with his elbow the
victims of the preliminary skirmishing, so that
they roll upon the floor what chess-player, who
has to lean down and pick them up, will not
be the better for the strain upon his diaphragm ?
No ; say what you will against chess, but do
not mock at it for its lack of exercise.
Yet there is this against it. The courtesies
of the game are few. I think that this must be
why the passion for it leaves me after a month.
When at cricket you are bowled first ball, the
wicketkeeper can comfort you by murmuring
that the light is bad ; when at tennis your
opponent forces for the dedans and strikes you
A Misjudged Game
heavily under the eye, he can shout, "Sorry!"
when at golf you reach a bunker in 4 and take
3 to get out, your partner can endear himself by
saying, " Hard luck " ; but at chess everything
that the enemy does to you is deliberate. He
cannot say, " Sorry ! " as he takes your knight ;
he does not call it hard luck when your king
is surrounded by vultures eager for his death ;
and though it would be kindly in him to attri-
bute to the bad light the fact that you never
noticed his castle leaning against your queen,
yet it would be quite against the etiquette of
Indeed, it is impossible to win gracefully at
chess. No man yet has said " Mate ! " in a
voice which failed to sound to his opponent
bitter, boastful, and malicious. It is the tone
of that voice which, after a month, I find it
impossible any longer to stand.
A Doubtful Character o *> o
I FIND it difficult to believe in Father Christ-
inas. If he is the jolly old gentleman he is
always said to be, why doesn't he behave as such ?
How is it that the presents go so often to the
wrong people ?
This is no personal complaint ; I speak for
the world. The rich people get the rich pre-
sents, and the poor people get the poor ones.
That may not be the fault of Father Christmas ;
he may be under contract for a billion years to
deliver all presents just as they are addressed ;
but how can he go on smiling ? He must long
to alter all that. There is Miss Priscilla A
who gets five guineas worth of the best every
year from Mr. Cyril B who hopes to be her
heir. Mustn't that make Father Christmas mad ?
Yet he goes down the chimney with it just the
same. When his contract is over, and he has a
free hand, he'll arrange something about that,
A Doubtful Character
If he is the jolly old gentleman of the pictures
his sense of humour must trouble him. He must
be itching to have jokes with the parcels. " Only
just this once," he would plead. " Let me give
Mrs. Brown the safety-razor, and Mr. Brown the
night-dress case; I swear I won't touch any of
the others." Of course that wouldn't be a very
subtle joke ; but jolly old gentlemen with white
beards aren't very subtle in their humour. They
lean to the broader effects the practical joke
and the pun. I can imagine Father Christmas
making his annual pun on the word " reindeer,"
and the eldest reindeer making a feeble attempt
to smile. The younger ones wouldn't so much
as try. Yet he would make it so gaily that you
would love him even if you couldn't laugh.
Coming down chimneys is dangerous work for
white beards, and if I believed in him I should
ask myself how he manages to keep so clean.
I suppose his sense of humour suggested the
chimney to him in the first place, and for a year
or two it was the greatest joke in the world.
But now he must wish sometimes that he came
in by the door or the window. Some chimneys
are very dirty for white beards.
Have you noticed that children, who hang up
their stockings, always get lots of presents, and
Not That It Matters
that we grown-ups, who don't hang up our
stockings, never get any ? This makes me think
that perhaps after all Father Christmas has some
say in the distribution. When he sees an empty
stocking* he pops in a few things on his own
account with " from Aunt Emma " pinned on
to them. Then you write to Aunt Emma to
thank her for her delightful present, and she is
so ashamed of herself for not having sent you
one that she never lets on about it. But when
Father Christmas doesn't see a stocking, he just
leaves you the embroidered tobacco pouch from
your sister and the postal order from your rich
uncle, and is glad to get out of the house.
Of his attitude towards Christmas cards I
cannot speak with certainty, but I fancy that he
does not bring these down the chimney too ; the
truth being, probably, that it is he who composes
the mottoes on them, and that with the customary
modesty of the author he leaves the distribution
of them to others. " The old, old wish a merry
Christmas and a happy New Year " he considers
to be his masterpiece so far, but " A righte merrie
Christemasse " runs it close. " May happy hours
be yours " is another epigram in the same vein
which has met with considerable success. You
can understand how embarrassing it would be to
A Doubtful Character
an author if he had to cart round his own works,
and practically to force them on people. This is
why you so rarely find a Christmas card in your
There is one other thing at which Father Christ-
mas draws the line ; he will not deliver venison.
The reindeer say it comes too near home to them.
But, apart from this, he is never so happy as when
dealing with hampers. He would put a plum-
pudding into every stocking if he could, for like
all jolly old gentlemen with nice white beards
he loves to think of people enjoying their food.
I am not sure that he holds much with chocolates,
although he is entrusted with so many boxes
that he has learnt to look on them with kindly
tolerance. But the turkey idea, I imagine
(though I cannot speak with authority), the
turkey idea was entirely his own. Nothing like
turkey for making the beard grow.
If I believed in Father Christmas I should ask
myself what he does all the summer all the
year, indeed, after his one day is over. The
reindeer, of course, are put out to grass.
But where is Father Christmas ? Does he sleep
for fifty-one weeks ? Does he shave, and mix
with us mortals? Or does he yes, that must
be it does he spend the year in training,
Not That It Matters
in keeping down his figure ? Chimney work
is terribly trying; the figure wants watching if
one is to carry it through successfully. This is
especially so in the case of jolly old gentlemen
with white beards. I can see Father Christmas,
as soon as his day is over, taking himself off to
the Equator and running round and round it.
By next December he is in splendid condition.
When his billion years are over, when his
contract expires and he is allowed a free hand
with the presents, I suppose I shall not be alive
to take part in the distribution. But none the
less I like to think of the things I should get.
There are at least half a dozen things which I
deserve, and Father Christmas knows it. In
any equitable scheme of allotment I should
come out well. " Half a minute," he would say,
" I must just put these cigars aside for the gentle-
man who had the picture post card last year.
What have you got there ? The country cottage
and the complete edition of Meredith ? Ah yes,
perhaps he'd better have those too."
That would be something like a Father
Thoughts on Thermometers o o
OUR thermometer went down to 11 deg. the
other night. The excitement was intense-
It was, of course, the first person down to break-
fast who rushed into the garden and made the
discovery, and as each of us appeared he was
greeted with the news.
" I say, do you know there were twenty-one
degrees of frost last night ? "
" Really ? By Jove ! "
We were all very happy and talkative at
breakfast an event rare enough to be chronicled.
It was not that we particularly wanted a frost,
but that we felt that, if it was going to freeze, it
might as well do it properly so as to show other
nations that England was still to be reckoned
with. And there was also the feeling that if the
thermometer could get down to 11 deg. it might
some day get down to zero ; and then perhaps
the Thames would be frozen over again at West-
minster, and the papers would be full of strange
Not That It Matters
news, and generally speaking life would be a
little different from the ordinary. In a word, there
would be a chance of something " happening "
which, I take it, is why one buys a thermometer
and watches it so carefully.
Of course, every nice thermometer has a device
for registering the maximum and minimum
temperatures, which can only be set with a
magnet. This gives you an opportunity of using
a magnet in ordinary life, an opportunity which
occurs all too seldom. Indeed, I can think of no
other occasion on which it plays any important
part in one's affairs. It would be interesting to
know if the sale of magnets exceeds the sale of
thermometers, and if so, why ? and it would, also
be interesting to know why magnets are always
painted red, as if they were dangerous, or belonged
to the Government, or but this is a question into
which it is impossible to go now. My present
theme is thermometers.
Our thermometer (which went down to 11
deg. the other night) is not one of your common
mercury ones ; it is filled with a pink fluid which
I am told is alcohol, though I have never tried.
It hangs in the kitchen garden. This gives you
an excuse in summer for going into the kitchen
garden and leaning against the fruit trees. " Let's
Thoughts on Thermometers
go and look at the thermometer " you say to your
guest from London, and just for the moment he
thinks that the amusements of the country are
not very dramatic. But after a day or two he
learns that what you really mean is, "Let's go
and see if any fruit has blown down in the night."
And he takes care to lean against the right tree.
An elaborate subterfuge, but necessary if your
gardener is at all strict.
But whether your thermometer hangs in the
kitchen garden or at the back of the shrubbery,
you must recognize one thing about it, namely,
that it is an open-air plant. There are people
who keep thermometers shut up indoors, which
is both cruel and unnecessary. When you com-
plain that the library is a little chilly as surely
you are entitled to they look at the thermometer
nailed to the Henry Fielding shelf and say, " Oh
no ; I don't think so. It's sixty-five." As if any-
body wanted a thermometer to know if a room
were cold or not. These people insult thermo-
meters and their guests further by placing one
of the former in the bathroom soap-dish, in order
that the latter may discover whether it is a hot or
cold bath which they are having. All decent people
know that a hot bath is one which you can just
bear to get into, and that a cold bath is one which
Not That It Matters
you cannot bear to think of getting into, but have
to for honour's sake. They do not want to be
told how many degrees Fahrenheit it is.
The undersized temperature-taker which the
doctor puts under your tongue before telling you
to keep warm and take plenty of milk puddings
is properly despised by every true thermometer-
lover. Any record which it makes is too personal
for a breakfast- table topic, and moreover it is a
thermometer which affords no scope for the
magnet. Altogether it is a contemptible thing.
An occasional devotee will bite it in two before
returning it to its owner, but this is rather a
strong line to take. It is perhaps best to avoid
it altogether by not being ill.
A thermometer must always be treated with
care, for the mercury once spilt can only be
replaced with great difficulty. It is considered to
be one of the most awkward things to pick up
after dinner, and only a very steady hand will
be successful. Some people with a gift for
handling mercury or alcohol make their own
thermometers ; but even when you have got the
stuff into the tube, it is always a question where
to put the little figures. So much depends upon
Now I must tell you the one hereditary failing
Thoughts on Thermometers
of the thermometer. I had meant to hide it
from you, but I see that you are determined to
have it. It is this : you cannot go up to it and
tap it. At least you can, but you don't get that
feeling of satisfaction from it which the tapping
of a barometer gives you. Of course you can
always put a hot thumb on the bulb and watch
the mercury run up ; this is satisfying for a short
time, but it is not the same thing as tapping.
And I am wrong to say " always," for in some
thermometers indeed, in ours, alas! the bulb
is wired in, so that no falsifying thumb can get
to work. However, this has its compensations,
for if no hot thumb can make our thermometer
untrue to itself, neither can any cold thumb. And
so when I tell you again that our thermometer
did go down to 1 1 deg. the other night, you have
no excuse for not believing that our twenty-one
degrees of frost was a genuine affair. In fact,
you will appreciate our excitement at breakfast.
For a Wet Afternoon o o o
LET us consider something seasonable ; let us
consider indoor games for a moment.
And by indoor games I do not mean anything
so serious as bridge and billiards, nor anything so
commercial as vingt-et-un with fish counters, nor
anything so strenuous as " bumps." The games
I mean are those jolly, sociable ones in which
everybody in the house can join with an equal
chance of distinction, those friendly games which
are played with laughter round a fire what time
the blizzards rattle against the window-pane.
These games may be divided broadly into two
classes ; namely, paper games and guessing games.
The initial disadvantage of the paper game is
that pencils have to be found for everybody ;
generally a difficult business. Once they are
found, there is no further trouble until the game
is over, when the pencils have to be collected
from everybody ; generally an impossible business.
If you are a guest in the house, insist upon a paper
For a Wet Afternoon
game, for it gives you a chance of acquiring a pencil ;
if you are the host, consider carefully whether you
would not rather play a guessing game.
But the guessing game has one great dis-
advantage too. It demands periodically that a
member of the company should go out by himself
into the hall and wait there patiently until his
companions have "thought of something." (It
may be supposed that he, too, is thinking of some-
thing in the cold hall, but perhaps not liking to
say it.) However careful the players are, un-
pleasantness is bound to arise sometimes over
this preliminary stage of the game. I knew of
one case where the people in the room forgot all
about the lady waiting in the hall and began to
tell each other ghost stories. The lights were
turned out, and sitting round the flickering fire
the most imaginative members of the household
thrilled their hearers with ghostly tales of the
dead. Suddenly, in the middle of the story of
Torfrida of the Towers a lady who had strangled
her children, and ever afterwards haunted the
battlements, headless, and in a night-gown the
door opened softly, and Miss Robinson entered
to ask how much longer they would be. Miss
Robinson was wearing a white frock, and the
effect of her entry was tremendous.
Not That It Matters
I remember, too, another evening when we
were playing "proverbs." William, who had
gone outside, was noted for his skill at the
game, and we were determined to give him
something difficult ; something which hadn't a
camel or a glass house or a stable door in it.
After some discussion a member of the company
suggested a proverb from the Persian, as he
alleged. It went something like this : " A wise
man is kind to his dog, but a poor man riseth
early in the morning." We took his word for it,
and, feeling certain that William would never
guess, called him to come in.
Unfortunately William, who is a trifle absent-
minded, had gone to bed.
To avoid accidents of this nature it is better
to play " clumps," a guessing game in which the
procedure is slightly varied. In "clumps" two
people go into the hall and think of something,
while the rest remain before the fire. Thus,
however long the interval of waiting, all are
happy ; for the people inside can tell each other
stories (or, as a last resort, play some other game)
and the two outside are presumably amusing
themselves in arranging something very difficult.
Personally I adore clumps ; not only for this reason,
but because of its revelation of hidden talent.
For a Wet Afternoon
There may be a dozen persons in each clump,
and in theory every one of the dozen is supposed
to take a hand in the cross-examination, but in
practice it is always one person who extracts the
information required by a cataract of searching
questions. Always one person and generally a
girl. I love to see her coming out of her shell.
She has excelled at none of the outdoor games
perhaps ; she has spoken hardly a word at meals.
In our little company she has scarcely seemed
to count. But suddenly she awakes into life.
Clumps is the family game at home ; she has
been brought up on it. In a moment she dis-
covers herself as our natural leader, a leader
whom we follow humbly. And however we may
spend the rest of our time together, the effect of
her short hour's triumph will not wholly wear
away. She is now established.
But the paper games will always be most
popular, and once you are over the difficulty of
the pencils you may play them for hours without
wearying. But of course you must play the
amusing ones and not the dull ones. The most
common paper game of all, that of making small
words out of a big one, has nothing to recommend
it; for there can be no possible amusement in
hearing somebody else read out "but," "bat,"
Not That It Matters
"bet," "bin," "ben," and so forth, not even if
you spend half an hour discussing whether " ben "
is really a word. On the other hand your game,
however amusing, ought to have some finality
about it; a game is not really a game unless
somebody can win it. For this reason I cannot
wholly approve " telegrams." To concoct a
telegram whose words begin with certain selected
letters of the alphabet, say the first ten, is to
amuse yourself anyhow and possibly your friends ;
whether you say, " Am bringing camel down early
Friday. Got hump. Inform Jamrach " ; or,
" Afraid better cancel dinner engagement.
Fred got horrid indigestion. JANE." But it is
impossible to declare yourself certainly the
winner. Fortunately, however, there are games
which combine amusement with a definite result ;
games in which the others can be funny while
you can get the prize or, if you prefer it, the
other way about.
When I began to write this, the rain was
streaming against the window-panes. It is now
quite fine. This, you will notice, often happens
when you decide to play indoor games on a wet
afternoon. Just as you have found the pencils,
the sun conies out.
Declined with Thanks *> o o
A PARAGRAPH in the papers of last week
recorded the unusual action of a gentleman
called Smith (or some such name) who had refused
for reasons of conscience to be made a justice of
the peace. Smith's case was that the commission
was offered to him as a reward for political services,
and that this was a method of selecting magistrates
of which he did not approve. So he showed his
contempt for the system by refusing an honour
which most people covet, and earned by this
such notoriety as the papers can give. " Portrait
(on page 8) of a gentleman who has refused
something ! " He takes his place with Brittle-
bones in the gallery of freaks.
The subject for essay has frequently been
given, "If a million pounds were left to you,
how could you do most good with it ? " Some
say they would endow hospitals, some that they
would establish almshouses ; there may even be
some who would go as far as to build half a
Not That It Matters
Dreadnought. But there would be a more
decisive way of doing good than any of these.
You might refuse the million pounds. That
would be a shock to the systems of the comfort-
able a blow struck at the great Money God
which would make it totter ; a thrust in defence
of pride and freedom such as had not been seen
before. That would be a moral tonic more
needed than all the draughts of your newly
endowed hospitals. Will it ever be adminis-
tered ? Well, perhaps when the D.W.T. club has
grown a little stronger.
Have you heard of the D.W.T. the Declined-
with-Thanks Club? There are no club rooms
and not many members, but the balance sheet
for the last twelve months is wonderful, show-
ing that more than 11,000 was refused. The
entrance fee is one hundred guineas and the
annual subscription fifty guineas ; that is to say,
you must have refused a hundred guineas before
you can be elected, and you are expected to
refuse another fifty guineas a year while you
retain membership. It is possible also to com-
pound with a life refusal, but the sum is not
fixed, and remains at the discretion of the
Baines is a life member. He saved an old
Declined with Thanks
lady from being run over by a motor bus some
years ago, and when she died she left him a
legacy of 1000. Baines wrote to the executors
and pointed out that he did not go about dragging
persons from beneath motor buses as a profession ;
that, if she- had offered him 1000 at the time,
he would have refused it, not being in the habit
of accepting money from strangers, still less from
women ; and that he did not see that the fact of
the money being offered two years later in a will
made the slightest difference. Baines was earn-
ing 300 a year at this time, and had a wife and
four children, but he will not admit that he did
anything at all out of the common.
The case of Sedley comes up for consideration
at the next committee meeting. Sedley's rich
uncle, a cantankerous old man, insulted him
grossly ; there was a quarrel ; and the old man
left, vowing to revenge himself by disinheriting
his nephew and bequeathing his money to a cats'
home. He died on his way to his solicitors, and
Sedley was told of his good fortune in good legal
English. He replied, "What on earth do yot
take me for ? I wouldn't touch a penny. Give
it to the cats' home or any blessed thing you
like." Sedley, of course, will be elected as an
ordinary member, but as there is a strong feeling
Not That It .Matters
on the committee that no decent man could have
done anything else, his election as a life member
Though there are one or two other members
like Baines and Sedley, most of them are men
who have refused professional openings rather
than actual money. There are, for instance,
half a dozen journalists and authors. Now a
journalist, before he can be elected, must have
a black-list of papers for which he will refuse
to write. A concocted wireless message in the
Daily Blank, which subsequent events proved to
have been invented deliberately for the purpose
of raking in ha'pennies, so infuriated Henderson
(to take a case) that he has pledged himself never
to write a line for any paper owned by the same
proprietors. Curiously enough he was asked a
day or two later to contribute a series to a most
respectable magazine published by this firm.
He refused in a letter which breathed hatred
and utter contempt in every word. It was
Henderson, too, who resigned his position as
dramatic critic because the proprietor of his
paper did rather a shady thing in private life.
" I know the paper isn't mixed up in it at all,"
he said, " but he's my employer and he pays me.
Well, I like to be loyal to my employers, and if
Declined with Thanks
I'm loyal to this man I can't go about telling
everybody that he's a dirty cad. As I particularly
Then there is the case of Bolus the author.
He is only an honorary member, for he has not
as yet had the opportunity of refusing money or
work. But he has refused to be photographed
and interviewed, and he has refused to contribute
to symposia in the monthly magazines. He has
declined with thanks, moreover, invitations to
half a dozen houses sent to him by hostesses
who only knew him by reputation. Myself, I
think it is time that he was elected a full
member ; indirectly he must have been a
financial loser by his action, and even if he is
not actually assisting to topple over the Money
God, he is at least striking a blow for the cause
of independence. However, there he is, and
with him goes a certain M.P. who contributed
20,000 to the party chest, and refused scorn-
fully the peerage which was offered to him.
The Bar is represented by P. J. Brewster,
who was elected for refusing to defend a sus-
pected murderer until he had absolutely convinced
himself of the man's innocence. It was suggested
to him by his legal brothers that counsel did
not pledge themselves to the innocence of their
Not That It Matters
clients, but merely put the case for one side in
a perfectly detached way, according to the best
traditions of the Bar. Brewster replied that he
was also quite capable of putting the case for
Tariff Reform in a perfectly detached way accord-
ing to the best traditions of The Morning Post,
but as he was a Free Trader he thought he
would refuse any such offer if it were made to
him. He added, however, that he was not in
the present case worrying about moral points of
view ; he was simply expressing his opinion that
the luxury of not having little notes passed to
him in court by a probable murderer, of not
sharing a page in an illustrated paper with him,
and of not having to shake hands with him if he
were acquitted, was worth paying for. Later on,
when as K.C., M.P., he refused the position of
standing counsel to a paper which he was always
attacking in the House, he became a life member
of the club.
But it would be impossible to mention all the
members of the D.W.T. by name. I have been
led on to speaking about the club by the mention
of that Mr. Smith (or whatever his name was)
who refused to be made a justice of the peace.
If Mr. Smith cared to put up as an honorary
member, I have no doubt that he would be
Declined with Thanks
elected ; for though it is against the Money God
that the chief battle is waged, yet the spirit of
refusal is the same. " Blessed are they who
know how to refuse," runs the club's motto, " for
they will have a chance to be clean."
On Going into a House o o o
T T is nineteen years since I lived in a house ;
JL nineteen years since I went upstairs to bed
and came downstairs to breakfast. Of course
I have done these things in other people's houses
from time to time, but what we do in other
people's houses does not count. We are holiday-
making then. We play cricket and golf and
croquet, and run up and down stairs, and amuse
ourselves in a hundred different ways, but all this
is no fixed part of our life. Now, however, for
the first time for nineteen years, I am actually
living in a house. I have (imagine my excite-
ment) a staircase of my own.
Flats may be convenient (I thought so myself
when I lived in one some days ago), but they
have their disadvantages. One of the disad-
vantages is that you are never in complete
possession of the flat. You may think that the
drawing-room floor (to take a case) is your very
own, but it isn't ; you share it with a man below
On Going into a House
who uses it as a ceiling. If you want to dance
& step-dance, you have to consider his plaster.
I I was always ready enough to accommodate
nnyself in this matter to his prejudices, but I
could not put up with his old-fashioned ideas
about bathroom ceilings. It is very cramping to
one's style in the bath to reflect that the slightest
splash may call attention to itself on the ceiling
of the gentleman below. This is to share a
bathroom with a stranger an intolerable position
for a proud man. To-day I have a bathroom of
my own for the first time in my life.^
I can see already that living in a house is going
to be extraordinarily healthy both for mind and
body. At present I go upstairs to my bedroom (and
downstairs again) about once in every half-hour ;
not simply from pride of ownership, to make sure
that the bedroom is still there, and that the
staircase is continuing to perform its functions,
but in order to fetch something, a letter or a key,
which as likely as not I have forgotten about
again as soon as I have climbed to the top of the
house. No such exercise as this was possible in
a flat, and even after two or three days I feel the
better for it. But obviously I cannot go on like
this, if I am to have leisure for anything else.
With practice I shall so train my mind that,
Not That It Matters
when I leave my bedroom in the morning, I leave
it with everything that I can possibly require
until nightfall. This, I imagine, will not happen
for some years yet ; meanwhile physical training
Getting up to breakfast means something
different now ; it means coming down to break-
fast. To come down to breakfast brings one
immediately in contact with the morning. The
world flows past the window, that small and (as
it seems to me) particularly select portion of
the world which finds itself in our quiet street ;
I can see it as I drink my tea. When I lived
in a flat (days and days ago) anything might
have happened to London, and I should never
have known it until the afternoon. Everybody
else could have perished in the night, and I
should settle down as complacently as ever to
my essay on making the world safe for democracy.
Not so now. As soon as I have reached the
bottom of my delightful staircase I am one with
the outside world.
Also one with the weather, which is rather
convenient. On the third floor it is almost
impossible to know what sort of weather they
are having in London. A day which looks cold
from a third-floor window may be very sultry
On Going into a House
down below, but by that time one is committed
to an overcoat. How much better to live in a
house, and to step from one's front door and
inhale a sample of whatever day the gods have
sent. Then one can step back again and dress
But the best of a house is that it has an
outside personality as well as an inside one.
Nobody, not even himself, could admire a man's
flat from the street ; nobody could look up and
say, "What very delightful people must live
behind those third-floor windows." Here it is
different. Any of you may find himself some
day in our quiet street, and stop a moment to
look at our house ; at the blue door with its
jolly knocker, at the little trees in their blue
tubs standing within a ring of blue posts linked
by chains, at the bright-coloured curtains. You
may not like it, but we shall be watching you
from one of the windows, and telling each other
that you do. In any case, we have the pleasure
of looking at it ourselves, and feeling that we are
contributing something to London, whether for
better or for worse. We are part of a street
now, and can take pride in that street. Before,
we were only part of a big unmanageable
Not That It Matters
It is a solemn thought that I have got this
house for (apparently) eighty-seven years. One
never knows, and it may be that by the end of
that time I shall be meditating an article on the
advantages of living in a flat. A flat, I shall say,
is so convenient.
The Ideal Author o o o o
QAMUEL BUTLER made a habit (and urged
wJit upon every young writer) of carrying a
notebook about with him. The most profitable
ideas, he felt, do not come from much seeking,
but rise unbidden in the mind, and if they are
not put down at once on paper, they may be
lost for ever. But with a notebook in the
pocket you are safe ; no thought is too fleeting
to escape you. Thus, if an inspiration for a
five-thousand word story comes suddenly to you
during the dessert, you murmur an apology to
your neighbour, whip out your pocket-book, and
jot down a few rough notes. " Hero choked
peach-stone eve marriage Lady Honoria. Pch-
tree planted by jltd frst love. Ironyofthings.
Tragic." Next morning you extract your note-
book from its white waistcoat, and prepare to
develop your theme (if legible) a little more fully.
Possibly it does not seem so brilliant in the cold
light of morning as it did after that fourth glass
Not That It Matters
of Bellinger. If this be so, you can then make
another note say, for a short article on "Dis-
illusionment." One way or another a notebook
and a pencil will keep you well supplied with
If I do not follow Butler's advice myself, it is
not because I get no brilliant inspirations away
from my inkpot, nor because, having had the
inspirations, I am capable of retaining them until
I get back to my inkpot again, but simply
because I should never have the notebook and
the pencil in the right pockets. But though I
do not imitate him, I can admire his wisdom,
even while making fun of it. Yet I am sure it
was unwise of him to take the public into his
confidence. The public prefers to think that an
author does not require these earthly aids to
composition. It will never quite reconcile itself
to the fact that an author is following a profes-
sion a profession by means of which he pays the
rent and settles the weekly bills. No doubt the
public wants its favourite writers to go on living,
but not in the sordid way that its barrister and
banker friends live. It would prefer to feel that
manna dropped on them from Heaven, and that
the ravens erected them a residence ; but, having
regretfully to reject this theory, it likes to keep
The Ideal Author
up the pretence that the thousand pounds that
an author received for his last story came as
something of a surprise to him being, in fact,
really more of a coincidence than a reward.
The truth is that a layman will never take an
author quite seriously. He regards authorship,
not as a profession, but as something between
an inspiration and a hobby. In as far as it is an
inspiration, it is a gift from Heaven, and ought,
therefore, to be shared with the rest of the
world ; in as far as it is a hobby, it is something
which should be done not too expertly, but in
a casual, amateur, haphazard fashion. For this
reason a layman will never hesitate to ask of
an author a free contribution for some local
publication, on such slender grounds as that he
and the author were educated at the same school
or had both met Robinson. But the same man
would be horrified at the idea of askiug a Harley
Street surgeon (perhaps even more closely con-
nected with him) to remove his adenoids for
nothing. To ask for this (he would feel) would
be almost as bad as to ask a gift of ten guineas
(or whatever the fee is), whereas to ask a writer
for an article is like asking a friend to decant,
your port for you a delicate compliment to his
particular . talent. But in truth the matter is
Not That It Matters
otherwise ; and it is the author who has the
better right to resent such a request. For the
supply of available adenoids is limited, and if the
surgeon hesitates to occupy himself in removing
one pair for nothing, it does not follow that in
the time thus saved be can be certain of getting
employment upon a ten-guinea pair. But when
a Harley Street author, has written an article,
there are a dozen papers which will give him
his own price for it, and if he sends it to his
importunate schoolfellow for nothing, he is
literally giving up, not only ten or twenty or a
hundred guineas, but a publicity for his work
which he may prize even more highly. More-
over, he has lost what can never be replaced
an idea ; whereas the surgeon would have lost
Since, then, the author is not to be regarded
as a professional, he must by no means adopt
the professional notebook. He is to write by
inspiration ; which comes as regularly to him.
(it is to be presumed) as indigestion to a lesser-
favoured mortal. He must know things by
intuition ; not by experience or as the result
of reading. This, at least, is what one gathers
from hearing some people talk about our
novelists. The hero of Smith's new book goes
The Ideal Author
to the Royal College of Science, and the public
says scornfully : " Of course, he would. Because
Smith went to the Royal College himself, all his
heroes have to go there. This isn't art, this is
photography." In his next novel Smith sends
his hero to Cambridge, and the public says indig-
nantly, " What the deuce does Smith know about
Cambridge ? Trying to pretend he is a 'Varsity
man, when everybody knows that he went to the
Royal College of Science! I suppose he's been
mugging it up in a book." Perhaps Brown's
young couple honeymoons in Switzerland. " So
did Brown," sneer his acquaintances. Or they
go to Central Africa. " How ridiculous," say his
friends this time. " Why, he actually writes as
though he'd been there ! I suppose he's just spent
a week-end with Sir Harry Johnston." Meredith
has been blamed lately for being so secretive
about his personal affairs, but he knew what he
was doing. Happy is the writer who has no
personal affairs; at any rate, he will avoid this
sort of criticism.
Indeed, Isaiah was the ideal author. He in-
truded no private affairs upon the public. He
took no money for his prophecies, and yet man-
aged to live on it. He responded readily, I
imagine, to any request for " something prophetic,
Not That It Matters
you know/' from acquaintances or even strangers.
Above all, he kept to one style, and did not worry
the public, when once it had got used to him, by
tentative gropings after a new method. And
Isaiah, we may be sure, did not carry a notebook.
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